Wini Smart, who painted and operated galleries in Boca Grande and Northeast Harbor Maine, directed that some of her paintings be sold and part of the proceeds donated to the Boca Grande Historical Society. The show and sale will be open to Boca Grande Historical Society members from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Monday, March 16, at the Boca Bay Power House. Wine, champagne and hors d’oeuvres will be served, and purchase of paintings will be by check.
Wini Smart came to Gasparilla Island in 1976 on the advice of a Maine visitor who worked at The Gasparilla Inn. Of the town of Boca Grande she described the peeling paint on the railroad depot and high grass along the railroad tracks and in empty lots.
She added, “Even so it looked picturesque, just what would inspire an artist.”
At the south end of the island was the Lighthouse – closed, boarded up and in need of repair.
“It all had a lonely look, but seen against the brilliant inlet it was lovely. I knew then that someday I had to make this island my home.”
Wini did come. In 1979 she arrived on her sailboat, Winsome II, with Jack and anchored in the bayou near the Pink Elephant. Later they moved the boat to Whidden’s and found a building for Wini’s gallery. Jack acted as gallery host and as framer. Wini was busy, since her paintings were selling, and Jack had all the framing work he could handle.
In the 1980s the Island started to develop and the town was beginning to prosper, so much so that when Wini returned for her fourth season, her shop space had been rented to someone else. Since there was no store space available, Wini persuaded a realtor to rent her half of his space, meaning customers went through the real estate office to reach the gallery. Each season Wini vied for retail space until she was able to buy the building the gallery now occupies. Ironically, it’s the same space she originally rented that first year.
Wini became active in the newly formed Art Alliance and was president for several terms.She remembered that they managed to find a home for the group in a room at the Community House and soon had a place to work and hold classes.
Summers took Wini back to Maine, her Northeast Harbor Gallery and Great Cranberry Island home. She divided her time between Maine and Boca Grande until her death in 2017. She was a co-founder of the Great Cranberry Island Historical Society, and her home and studio now serve as the Society’s museum. Her interest in history and islands is consistent with her generous donation of part of the upcoming art show and sale proceeds to the Boca Grande Historical Society as a tribute to another island she loved. Tickets for the event are limited but may be purchased by Historical Society members by calling or visiting the History Center, 170 Park Avenue, 964-1600 or online at bocagrandehistoricalsociety.com. Non-members may join the Society and buy tickets at the same time. Tickets are $75.