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Matlacha - A Tiny Artist Enclave
Matlacha - Man, You Gotta Love This Artsy Place!
If it's a bustling, barefoot-on-the-beach kind of Florida vacation you're looking for... you've made a wrong turn! Matlacha (pronounced: MAT-la-shay) is a teeny tiny little town off the southwest coast of Florida, on Pine Island. This awesome artist enclave is on a spit of land only 0.2 sq. miles; (I know, I know, my walk-in shower is almost that size!). The population is a minuscule 735, during high season.
The name Matlacha comes from a Caloosa (Indian) word meaning "water to the chin," and there are scrapbooks of local history all over the island. In its former life Matlacha was a commercial fishery, but that ended in 1992 with a voter-led ban on net fishing. Hence, the small shacks the fishermen once called home have been refurbished and are now occupied by a highly-regarded artists community.
Image Credit: All photos in this article taken by me, Glenda Motsavage, with the Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX150
A Pee-wee Sized Place!
Every single day, as many people move into Florida as the entire population of Matlacha.
Island Time Begins Here - A Matlacha Mindset!
I grew up in a tiny town in Central Pennsylvania; Amish country where there were more farms than families. Well, I thought my hometown was tiny... until I discovered Matlacha!
Matlacha is one of those rare, "Old Florida" style spots - a quiet, secluded, off-the-beaten-path place that you visit on purpose. There's a sign at the Bridgewater Inn that says, "Island Time Begins Here." So true! I noticed there were no traffic lights, no schools, nor any churches on this tiny isle. And, the townfolk never seemed to be in a hurry. Here, time changes more slowly than the Florida I have come to know.
My husband and I discovered this tiny treasure last November, while staying in Cape Coral about 20 minutes away. The longer I live in Florida, (17 years now), the less desire I have for those touristy towns. Oh sure, I still renew my Annual Disney Pass every year. But at times I crave the simple, delightful pleasures of God's handiwork more than man-made Disney magic. In Matlacha, I've replaced monorails with mangroves, concrete and blacktop with island boutiques and bungalows, and skyscrapers with seawater and sailboats - secluded soul-searching at its best! As a writer, if you can't find inspiration and motivation here, you may as well give up the proverbial pen!
(I photographed the "Bicycle on the Beach" on the road from Matlacha to Pine Island. It perfectly captures the atmosphere on this tiny sub-tropical island oasis!)
Matlacha, Florida - The only thing that hasn't been over-exposed in the Sunshine State!
A Funky, Colorful Artist Community
A tiny town with HUGE talent!
If fun and quirky is embedded in your DNA, and you have a flare for the unusual, this tiny quadrant of land is for you. Most times, if you blink while passing through something this small you will miss it. Not so with Matlacha. This place is so bold and bright you could see it with your eyes closed at night!
The town may be tiny, but the talent is HUGE! A multitude of authors, musicians, and artists call Matlacha home. It didn't take me long to figure out this is Florida's quintessential quaint spot for recharging your artistic batteries. It didn't surprise me then to hear that famous people like Jimmy Buffet are part-time residents. (Yes, this place makes Key West look like a major metropolis.) Remember the Elvis Presley movie, "Follow That Dream?" Well, numerous scenes were shot in Florida, including one around the Matlacha bridge.
My Favorite Art Gallery on the Planet
Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens
This tiny island has 6 art galleries, but my hands-down favorite was Lovegrove Gallery & Gardens. We travel a lot, but I seriously have never seen anything like this. The owner and artist is Leoma Lovegrove, and the building is a combination artist studio, island gift shop, and botanical garden in the rear. This location serves as her international headquarters. The exterior polka dotted walls (to me they looked like whimsy bubbles from champagne) and flamingo pink roof are just a small glimpse of what is inside. Totally eccentric and so much to see, this tiny gem is jam-packed with Leoma's art and crafts that are as colorful as her personality.
Leoma's favorite rock band is the Beatles, and she devotes the entire front room to this theme. It felt like I was translated back to the 60's when bell-bottoms and peace-love tee-shirts were totally cool. Two additional viewing areas are the "Florida Room" and her patriotic "Leoma Loves America Room." We purchased a unique wall plaque as a Christmas gift for our best friends up North, and of course Leoma was happy to sign it.
I have since learned that Ms. Lovegrove did a portrait of former President Jimmy Carter (which hangs in his presidential library), and former President George W. Bush includes her work in his private collection. She has also done paintings for celebrities like Sharon Stone and Jesse Metcalf, as well as the City of Fort Myers. Additional prominent places displaying her work are the Southwest Florida International Airport, and the Edison Ford Winter Estates Museum. Once, she even painted in Claude Monet's gardens during a visit to France!
Your life should be a work of art— Leoma Lovegrove
This Outdoor Mat Was My Perfect Matlacha Momento!
I love all things Leoma, but especially this colorful outdoor mat I purchased that was signed by her. It was a perfect addition to my tropical-themed lanai. And, it serves as a wonderful momento from my Matlacha trip! Her art gallery and boutique has so many unique offerings, from paintings to garden accessories to one-of-a-kind sunglasses to women's apparel to tote bags and note cards. But, of all the things I bought, I received the most compliments on this item!
Leoma Lovegrove's "Painting Out Loud" Performance - Completed in 3 minutes!
I love Leoma’s “Painting Out Loud” performances. This is where she paints on large, museum-quality canvases in front of a live audience. Most times, she does this for charity. It’s a multimedia show with music, lights, and special effects and is completed in an amazing 3-15 minutes. (I have included a YouTube Video wherein she finishes a painting in 3 minutes!)
Wow. The first time I watched Leoma Lovegrove paint this quickly I was amazed. I've watched it several times since… and I'm still amazed!
Eclectic and Psychedelic Creations by Leoma Lovegrove ~ Matlacha DivaClick thumbnail to view full-size
Florida Artist Leoma Lovegrove - A Tribute to the Beatles!
© 2014 Glenda Motsavage