“Founding Females of Fort Myers, Florida” Exhibit



Chris Pendleton, President & CEO
Janet Wilson, PR & Marketing Director

      “Fort Myers Founding Females”Exhibit at Edison Ford

Fort Myers, FLA (January 15, 2015)  “Fort Myers Founding Females” art exhibit will open on Sunday, January 25, 2015, in the galleries of the Edison Caretaker’s House at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates.  There will be an opening reception from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. A Curator’s Gallery Talk will be given by Tom Hall, Curator and Artist, at 3:00 p.m.  The public is invited.  Entrance will be at the Edison Caretaker’s Gate and refreshments will be served.  The exhibit is a project of True Tours and Curator Tom Hall in collaboration with the Edison & Ford Winter Estates.

The exhibit features well-known artists portraying women who have shaped history of Fort Myers and will be on display through May 28 2015.  The group of "founding females" includes prominent female leaders, civic activists, philanthropists and entrepreneurs who played an important role in the history of the region. 

Throughout the exhibit, special activities, classes and tours will be presented including:

  • Girl Scout Badge Programs to celebrate Women’s History Month in March.  To register contact Edison Ford at 239-334-7419.
  • Participating Artist Workshops:

Leoma Lovegrove, Artist - “Collage Workshop” on March 25 and 26 at Lovegrove Gallery.  For information call her gallery at 239-283-6453

Megan Kissinger, Artist – “Drawing Zen Gardens” on January 30, “Foliage Botanical Illustrations”, January 31, “Floral Botanical Illustrations”, February 28 and “Tree Botanical Illustrations” on March 28. To register call Edison Ford at 239-334-7419

  • True Tours – “Legends and Legacy Downtown Walking Tours” For information, call 239-945-0405.  
  • "Founding Females Gallery Talks” for groups, tea and refreshments are extra. Reservations can be made by calling Edison Ford at 239-334.7419. 

“Founding Females” will remain on display through March, 2015, which is National Women’s History Month.  The artists whose work is included in the exhibit include:

Vicki Baker, impressionist artist and a retired elementary school teacher chose to do a portrait of Evalina Weatherford Gonzalez, one of the area’s first school teachers.  Baker’s work can be found in various private collections across the United States.

Mary Beth Barbato, Syracuse, New York transplant, mother of three and grandmother of five, chose to do the portrait of Florida Abbie Shcultz-Heitman.   Barbato received her BAE from Herron School of Art at Indiana University/Purdue University in Indianapolis, Indiana. After many years of teaching Elementary Art in Indiana and Ohio, she now resides in Fort Myers.

Dr. Kyra Belán creates portraiture that commemorates outstanding women in contemporary history. Artist, author and art historian, Belán graduated from Arizona State University with a B.F.A. in fine arts, and from Florida State
University with an M.F.A. in visual arts. Her Ed. D. from Florida International University is in higher education and art history.  She chose to do two colored pencil drawings on paper for the portrait show. The first is a 30 x 22 inch drawing of Berne Davis as a young woman.  Another portrait depicts Davis and Barbara B. Mann, who were lifelong friends.

Linda Benson selected Veronica Shoemaker as her Founding Female.  Benson attended the Art Institute of Chicago and the American Academy of Art and is active in the Downtown Art Walk. Veronica Shoemaker is known as a leader of the community as well as a longtime City Councilwoman and owner of her beloved flower shop.

Greg Biolchini’s portrait of Mina Edison from the Edison Ford collection was commissioned after the original was lost.  He is known as a “Representational Realist” and paints portraits, figures, landscapes, and nature in oils, pastels, and acrylics. Biolchini has taken courses in oil painting, portraiture, printmaking, pastel painting, and sculpture at the Ringling School of Art and Design. 

Tracey Owen Cullimore, fine art painter, is a member of the Portrait and Figure Painters Society of SW Florida and the Art League of Fort Myers. She specializes in portraits of both people and pets rendered in oil, watercolor and charcoal, resulting in an interpretation that expresses the nuances and unique character of her subjects.  Her featured portrait is of Fiery Flossie Hill. Her art can be found in private collections throughout Florida, Colorado, North Carolina and California.

Paula Eckerty painted Fort Myers’ Laura Hendry Thompson. Paula began her love affair with art in farm country in northern Indiana, where she pursued interests in stained glass, quilting, and needlework. Following her arrival in Cape Coral some 30 years ago, Eckerty spent many years in the field of decorative painting.   She has shown at BIG ARTS on Sanibel and Arts for Act Gallery, of which she is a proud supporter.

Beth Everhart, fine art photographer and Island Coast High School Creative Photography and Art History instructor, created a digital photo collage of Mina Edison for the Fort Myers Founding Females Exhibition. Everhart’s work generally consists of large-scale black-and white images, photographed using a variety of vintage box-style and pinhole cameras, rendering dream-like, soft-focus images. She received her Master of Fine Arts degree from Hunter College in New York City.

Cindy Jane chose civic activist and philanthropist Dr. Ella Mae Piper. Jane is an artist residing in Fort Myers. Though primarily self-taught, she attended Edison College for drawing, basic design, and art history. She is best known for her biomorphic surrealist oil paintings, which have been shown in many galleries including a solo show at the prestigious Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center.

Megan Kissinger, is an artist and Conservator at the Edison Ford Winter Estates.  She also teaches classes regularly at the site.  She is a native Floridian and a member of Artists for Conservation International.  She created of portrait of Helen Hendry, one of Florida’s first Landscape Architects .  Kissinger is one of the ten charter artists working with the Florida Wildlife Corridor and is an award-winning acrylic painter, known nationally for her wildlife conservation art and botanical illustrations.

Leoma Lovegrove is a Florida artist, impressionist painter, and lover of history and animals.  Her work is represented in numerous private collections, museums and galleries throughout the nation and is in the collection of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates. Her portrait of Jimmy Carter hangs in his Presidential Library in Atlanta. Her art is in the private collections of the White House in Washington, DC and in President George W. Bush’s Presidential Library in Dallas. A graduate of the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Florida and often paints and teaches in Monet's Garden in Giverny, France, as well as at Edison Ford.  Lovegrove lives on Matlacha Island.  Lovegrove presents a colorful portrait of a young Mina Edison that features her signature tropical palette. The portrait is based on an historical photograph and depicts her with the family dog, Cinnamon.

Robert Pavon was born in Havana Cuba. Like many artists he spent his childhood drawing. At age 18 he joined the United States Marine Corps. His service and appreciation for life has had an influence on his personal views that he hopes to portray in his art.  He received his Bachelors of Art from Florida Gulf Coast University.  Robert works primarily in the medium of acrylics on canvas. A realist, he is as accomplished in still life as he is in portraiture. He works in layers, known as glazes, to achieve the results he achieves on canvas.  Pavon chose Olive Stout, who was the owner of the newspaper, The Fort Myers Press.

Christine Reichow is showing a portrait of 100-year-old Bernese Barfield Davis. The artist is a Signature member of the American Watercolor Society, National Watercolor Society, Transparent Watercolor Society of America, Florida Watercolor Society and a member of Watercolor West and Southern Watercolor Society. She majored in clothing and textiles at Michigan State University.  

Renate M. Reuter, a Florida's and international award-winning, has a broad background and interest in the visual arts and in various media, with special concentration in oil painting. Her great many years in the corporate field have provided her with a strong foundation and practical experience in developing further this endeavor including good customer service.   The artist selected Laura Hendry Thompson.  

Sarah Tumm’s portrait of Jerusha Barber “Tootie” McGregor Terry is a synthesis of a 3D digital scan of Don Wilkins’ bust of Tootie and digitized vintage photographs of her.  She created a portrait of Tootie, with the addition of some modern day software technology touches. Tumm holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the International Academy of Design and Technology.

Africa Valdez did a progressive rendering of Olive Stout, depicting the Fort Myers Press owner as a young, middle aged and elderly woman.  Valdez is a Venezuelan-American artist. She attended a fashion design school in Caracas, Venezuela, followed by studying arts at The Arts Instructions School in Minneapolis.  Although traditional and portrait painting is in her repertoire, her real love and passion is in the challenge in mixing realism and abstract art to produce unique pieces with varied meanings.

Genie Witzel  fell in love with portrait painting and eagerly signed up when she heard about the Founding Females Exhibition. Genie has rendered not one, but three Founding Females, choosing as her subjects Fort Myers’ first daughter, Ada Elizabeth Hancock, the woman for whom the fort was named, Marion Twiggs Myers, and Jane L. Hendry’s daughter and first telephone switchboard operator Alice Hendry Tooke McCann.

Joan Wollam provides a soft and subtle portrait of Julia Isabel Frierson Hendry for the Founding Females portrait exhibition.  Born and raised in Philadelphia, Wollam began drawing at 16 and quickly advanced to oils and watercolors, while attending Fleisher Art Memorial School in Philadelphia and Parson School of Art and Design in New York.  She chose Hendry because of her time period, a favorite of hers, and she thought she looked like a strong confident woman. Painting Hendry gave her a better connection to Fort Myers and its history.


Edison Ford is open daily from 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.  Recently designated at a National Chemical Landmark, the site is also listed on the National Historic Register and is a  Florida Historical Landmark.  For additional information call 239-334-7419 or visit the web site at www.edisonfordwinterestates.org.