"It's nearly impossible for the businesses on the island to survive on three months of business and then another three months of questionable business and then another six months of almost no business."
"We all need to come together, especially during the economic difficulties we are going to face here in the next year or two. It's all of us together that make Boca Grande what it is. We just need to improve on that," Lynda Lancaster said this week.
This week, the country got a new President. Next week, Boca Grande gets a new chamber director. Local artist Lynda Lancaster, who will replace Craig Lutz Jan. 26 as executive director of the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce, coordinated the art show at the Oct. 18 Street Party.
Lancaster will take over Monday, Jan. 26, as executive director of the Boca Grande Area Chamber of Commerce from Craig Lutz, who has served in that position for the past five years.
Lutz, who will stay on to train his replacement, has worked with Lancaster on some projects and is confident of her abilities. "Lynda has had some business experience," Lutz said, "and she's real familiar with the community. When we did the Street Fair, she was in charge of setting up the artists, and she did a terrific job."
An artist and member of the Boca Grande Art Alliance, Lancaster has shown her work in local galleries and at area shows and has taught classes in oil painting. She has also done less serious projects like painting the table tops at South Beach.
She is excited and enthusiastic about her new position with the chamber and is looking forward to working with the chamber board and the Boca Grande community.
"I want to focus on bringing more commerce to the island during the summer months," she said, adding that she believes communication is one of the keys to achieving that goal.
"The more communication," Lancaster said, "the more easily things can be accomplished. Then we can all start working toward a common goal.
"I truly believe that the stores and the galleries and the merchants and the gift shops and the restaurants are really the backbone of this community. If there was just one gallery, no one would think to come here for art. If there was just one restaurant, people wouldn't come here to eat out. It's the collective of all of the businesses and the unique flavor they bring to the island that makes it a place people want to visit. That's a community. It gives it that specialness that we have on Boca.
"We need to get the word out and get more people coming to the island in the summer. It's nearly impossible for the businesses on the island to survive on three months of business and then another three months of questionable business and then another six months of almost no business.
"I hope folks will think about going out to eat one extra night, or trying a restaurant they haven't tried before, or thinking about shopping for a birthday or wedding gift for next summer that's uniquely Boca Grande.
"Go to a local mom and pop business instead of a chain. Buy your groceries at the local store. Buy your clothes from a local shop. Advertise with your local newspapers.
"If everyone does that one extra thing this year," Lancaster said, "it will help your neighbors and help our community."
Lancaster brings to her new position not only her experience as an artist but an extensive background in business and government as well.
"Art was always a driving force in my life," she said, "but not as a career, not until I moved here."
Lancaster comes by her artistic talent honestly. Her father, a farmer and master woodworker, could expertly repair and reproduce antique furniture. Her mother, a registered nurse, although not at all artistically inclined always encouraged her daughter to do whatever she wanted to do.
Growing up on a farm in Illinois, Lancaster tossed hay bales with her brothers, bottle fed lambs, hatched baby chicks in the basement, rode Bobby Sox the horse, and helped her Dad with his Angus and Hereford cattle. In grade school, she turned into "a scrapper." Boys who teased her about her "buck teeth" got in return a black eye or even stitches from Lancaster's keen aim with a rock.
In addition to a good arm, Lancaster had two other significant talents: music and art. At age 13, she painted her first professional oil painting and was also awarded a music scholarship from the University of Illinois to study classical piano at summer camps and through extension classes. "My music teacher and art teacher used to have discussions about which way I'd go, music or art," she said. Little did they know how many years it would be before a choice was made.
After high school, Lancaster went to a community college and started a family. Putting her art and music aside, she started working in government in Springfield, Illinois' capital. From a job as a secretary in a legislative office, she went on to become a legislative liaison with the Governor's office, a position she held for almost nine years.
Then, about 15 years ago, Lynda came to Southwest Florida on vacation. "Within a year I quit my job and moved down here," she said. "I fell in love with this area."
Lancaster hadn't done an oil painting in probably 20 years, but the beauty of Florida inspired her to return to her first love. "I simply began to paint again - my life coming full circle." Boca Grande's artistic community was very supportive and encouraged her. Eventually she was able to give up her job waiting tables at The Temp, convert her garage into a studio, and paint full time.
Oils are her favorite medium. "I like oils because I like the texture. I like the pigment. I like the smell of linseed oil," she said. Her inspiration comes from fond memories of pastures and woodlands back in Illinois as well as the landscapes and seascapes of Florida.
"Each time I paint, it's as if I see for the very first time," Lancaster said. "There is an essence of life and light in all. My hope is to evoke within the viewer a stirring of that essence a feeling of the time and space of each painting."