By Melinda Gray
The first time I had the pleasure of meeting local artist, Malenda Trick, was nearly two months ago. The Marco Island Foundation for the Arts (MIFA) had chosen to honor her as their first annual artist of the year. I noticed right away how open, friendly and down-to-earth she was. She instantly put me at ease, a treat I see far less often than one would think.
After accepting her award, she spoke of her two previous Veterans Day projects in which she painted 35 individual portraits of veterans in Southwest Florida and then in Sarasota. Additionally, she touched on plans for her third annual project to honor veterans. I was excited to speak with her again, and looked forward to seeing her vision come to fruition.
“It was just a flirtation with an idea then. Now look at it!” said Trick.
And it truly has blossomed into something wonderful. A sizable crowd gathered on July 15 at the Marco Island Historical Museum (MIHM) to celebrate the project’s official commencement. The reception was hosted in the museum lobby, where the 18-foot-wide, double-sided canvas will remain the center of attention for months to come. A close collaborative effort by MIFA, the museum and the artist, herself, continue to ensure the endeavor’s success.
“She just woke up one morning and said ‘I need to do something for Florida,’ and it’s wonderful that we have a place to do it. She’s an amazing person,” said enterprise manager of the historical society, Lori Wagor, of her friend, Malenda Trick.
Herb and Emily Savage lead a beautiful, celebratory rendition of “God Bless America” as the room patriotically sang along; and then the first paint was put to canvas. Attendees watched, socialized and enjoyed complementary wine and hors d’oeurves as Trick started painting the centerpiece of the designated Florida side, our state flag.
When finished, images of Florida’s many military feats, iconic war-time scenes and personal photos submitted by local veterans will form a collage on one side of the memorial wall. The opposite side will feature our national efforts, commemorating all of America’s heroes who served bravely. The memorial wall will be unveiled in front of veterans, local government officials and the general public amidst the next ceremony, scheduled for Nov. 11.
In the meantime, the artist will be on display alongside her beloved project. An open invitation has been extended for the public to stop by and watch her bring the vision to life. She will paint at the MIHM from noon to 3 PM every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The process, projected to last about six weeks, will be captured by video and photos.
“It’s in a really great spot; people can walk by the windows and see her working. We’re encouraging everyone to stop in during those quiet times. She has wonderful stories about the men she’s painted. She’s just a really special person,” said Kat Nimtz Rinaldo, Trick’s project director and friend.
Nimtz Rinaldo is currently compiling a list of places vying for their chance at displaying the memorial; Trick’s previous veterans’ portrait projects traveled far and wide and have been seen by thousands. The military museum at the Naples airport is the first planned stop; hopes are that it will travel around the country, eventually to be seen in the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.
“This is the first time that anything has been done like this. We will see where it takes us, judged on tonight and the enthusiasm for the project. It’s near and dear to everyone’s heart,” said Nimtz Rinaldo. “This is a real community project. We want everybody to have input on this and direct where they think it should go. People are already putting their names on the list.”
Anyone wanting to donate $25 can sign their name, or the name of any veteran they wish to honor, around the rim of the painting. Money raised will be given to various veterans’ charities. The invitation for public participation remains open to anyone interested in submitting action photos for possible inclusion. With ample material to paint the United States side, Trick says she still needs historic action pictures of Florida veterans and historic local military shots.
For more information, please contact project director Kat Nimtz Rinaldo at 201-960-0203 or by email mermaid. [email protected]