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There's no doubt about it... despite the slow economy, the arts are alive and well on Marco Island, in fact they're positively fl ourishing! Island Art Institutions The Art League of Marco Island has recently celebrated its 40th anniversary and is as active as ever with its annual art shows, winter lecture series ( see calendar of events on page 58 for details), regular classes, and its ex-cellent gift shop. In recent years it has been joined by The Marco Island Foundation for the Arts which has opened an offi ce in the Esplanade and has already been instrumental in raising the profi le of the arts on Marco Island. Gallery Tour The Blue Mangrove Gallery in Marco Town Center Mall has just moved to a new, larger and more high profi le loca-tion opposite the video store. Offering jewelry, art, furnitue and gifts, it represents many wonderful local artists, featur-ing a different one each month and offering an opportunity to actually " meet the artist" at the opening reception of each show. Once again, see our calendar of events on page 58 for details of featured artists in January and February. Tycoon Gallery in the Esplanade also promotes local artists like Thomas Millsap of Naples and has added two fabulous new Florida based artists to its extensive repetoire this year... Jeanette Chupack ( who specializes in eco art and is being featured in the January edition of American Artist) and Ellen Bianchi whose paper casing pieces are delight-fully simple and very reasonably priced.

The Shops of Olde Marco also has a thriving artistic community with In the Light Gallery and Melinda Trick's studio being joined recently by Amantea Gallery, which offers an eclectic collection of local eco photography and jewelry de-signed by the owner Kathleen Douglas, as well as gifts and original art. Artists Colony at the Esplanade Lastly, and perhaps most exciting of all, by virtue of the generosity of the Esplanade Shopping Center, thirteen local artists have recently taken over three retail units in the shopping center and turned them into working studios. So on any given day, as you stroll around the Esplanade, you're likely to come across several of them working away at their painting, digital art, pottery or even concrete art. I stopped by there one Friday morning in early November and found Tara O'Neil putting the fi nishing touches to a commissioned painting of a boat, Joanne Sandborn working on another com-missioned piece depicting grasslands in the Everglades and Sandy Howe photographing her pottery to add it to her website. All of the pieces, from huge canvases to jewelry and handmade note cards, are for sale and offer a rare opportunity to acquire something that hasn't been mass produced whatever your budget might be. The styles of the artists, and the media in which they work, may be very varied but the artists tell me they fi nd working in this new community very stimulating - there are countless opportunities to chat to the other artists about their work and they can see fi rst hand the reaction of the public to their pieces. I, for one was surprised to learn that there were so many talented artists living in our midst and I venture to hope that working on the principle of " birds of a feather fl ock to-gether" this vibrant new colony will attract even more creative souls to join us in this quaint little corner of paradise!