Rebuilding Times Square After Hurricane Ian: A Community Effort

Times Square Gets a New Look: A Symbol of Resilience and Renewal

Fort Myers Beach—Times Square, a beloved tourist destination, has been transformed with a towering mural, becoming an iconic welcoming piece amidst the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. The mural, envisioned by Chris Primeau and brought to life by local artists Lacy McClary and Summer DeSalvo, stands as a testament to the resilience and creativity of the Fort Myers Beach community.

A Vision Born from Destruction

After Hurricane Ian left much of Times Square bare, Chris Primeau saw an opportunity to breathe new life into the area. Primeau, who owns the former Sandal Factory building, sought to turn a gray elevator shaft into a vibrant backdrop that would welcome visitors and symbolize hope. With the help of McClary and DeSalvo, who generously donated their time and talents, Primeau raised funds to cover the necessary equipment and supplies.

The resulting mural is a stunning collection of images: a giant seahorse, a sailboat, a shrimp boat, and baby sea turtles heading toward the Gulf of Mexico. These vivid depictions can be seen from the edge of Times Square to the beach at Lynn Hall Memorial Park, greeting motorists traveling over the Matanzas Pass Bridge with the message, “Welcome to Fort Myers Beach.”

Artists with a Personal Connection

For Lacy McClary, the project was deeply personal. Her gallery on Main Street was destroyed by Hurricane Ian, and she lost almost everything inside. Despite these challenges, McClary saw the mural as a way to spread positivity and remind the community of their shared experiences and strength. Her artwork, including a seahorse—a symbol of good fortune and protection—reflects her hope for a brighter future for Fort Myers Beach.

Summer DeSalvo, a professional mural artist, also faced displacement due to the hurricane. Despite working in sweltering summer temperatures, DeSalvo found the project incredibly rewarding. Her mural features baby turtles hatching and a sunset with a shrimp boat, accompanied by the words “legacy matters.” DeSalvo’s work, including painting the makeshift outdoor restaurant for La Ola, has brought a sense of accomplishment and pride to her and the community.

Challenges and Hopes for the Future

While the mural represents a significant step in the rebuilding effort, challenges remain. The town of Fort Myers Beach has yet to receive funds from FEMA or the state to help rebuild Times Square. Primeau, who raised $13,577 of the $15,000 goal for the mural through a GoFundMe page, expressed frustration with the bureaucratic red tape slowing down the rehabilitation process.

Despite these hurdles, the community remains hopeful. Primeau believes in the mural’s potential to attract visitors and invigorate the area. “It’s going to bring people in,” he said. “People are going to drink around it. It’s positive for the beach.”

The mural’s creation, a collaborative effort supported by the community, stands as a beacon of resilience and a reminder of the power of art to heal and inspire. As Fort Myers Beach continues to rebuild, the spirit of Times Square and its new mural will undoubtedly play a crucial role in the town’s recovery and renewal.

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