As many Americans will forever carry memories of one of the darkest days in the nation's history, Leoma Lovegrove has been carrying a billboard-sized canvas around Southwest Florida to forever remember the more than 3,000 lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001.
"It's been a way for people to have closure (even in Southwest Florida)," said Lovegrove, a renowned Southwest Florida artist.
For the past 6 months, Lovegrove's 18-foot-by-10-foot Remember 9/11 Tenth Year canvas has traveled to six locations, where the public painted names of victims from the 9/11 attacks. Each location represented a site where victims lost their lives on that formidable day the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and passengers and crew on board the four airplanes used in the attacks. Names have been painted in different colors to represent where they perished.
"For example, those who perished at the World Trade Center will be shown in red; those on Flight 93 in dark blue, and so on, layer upon layer," explained Lovegrove, whose international headquarters is located in the Tree Tops Center on Sanibel.
She came up with the idea for the community-wide art project two years ago after taking part in a production called "Remember 9/11" at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater in Fort Myers.
"We had invited people to paint these squares, which were going to become part of my American flag project," recalled Lovegrove. "All of a sudden, all of these people started getting out of their seats to stand in line to paint a square. There's something about working with wet paint that makes people want to get involved with something."
According to Lovegrove, more than 200 squares were painted by those Broadway Palm guests, which ultimately became a part of her "Remember 9/11" mural currently on display at Southwest Florida International Airport.
As time went on, Lovegrove noticed that her project had become "a gathering place," where people share stories and reflect on where they were that day nearly 10 years ago. After more than 3,000 names are written on the canvas, it will be brought back to the Broadway Palm, where Lovegrove will add an image of an American bald eagle in flight.
"It's not going to be your typical bald eagleI'm definitely going to 'Leoma-ize it," she said. "But it's going to be very patriotic."
During "Brunch with Leoma Lovegrove," the large canvas will become a backdrop for a 75-minute show complete with two different color guards, the Symphonic Choral and 9/11 skits featuring the artist. A live feed, without brunch, has been added to accommodate 300 more guests. Tickets are complimentary and currently available at the ticket office, located at 1380 Colonial Blvd. Several members of the NYPD Local 1013 will also take part in the event.
"This has brought the project up close and personal, so that we will never forget," said Lovegrove, who collaborated with Sanibel filmmaker Rusty Farst on the project.
Farst's camera rolled as members of the public painted names and shared memories at each of the locations. His 30-minute video will truly be a patriotic creation. Farst said this project has taught him not to be angry about the tragic events that seemingly have been in etched in our minds.
"I liked the colors and expression it brought," he said of why he got involved. "People have been given a canvasit's more about honor than the 10th anniversary."
Following the program on Sept. 11, Lovegrove plans on submitting the commemorative painting to the Alliance for the Arts. She hopes they will take it to Southwest Florida International Airport for display, or have it become part of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum at Ground Zero.
(Editor Jeff Lysiak contributed to this story)