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Watson MacRae Gallery debuts at Village Shops

By Staff | Dec 23, 2008

It wasn’t simply a chance meeting at a gallery opening this past summer in New York City that led Maureen Watson to open her own art gallery here in Sanibel.

But it certainly steered her in the right direction.

Watson, a native of The Hamptons, N.Y. and former art gallery owner in Naples, had worked most of her adult life in Manhattan, operating a successful training business. In 2000, she quit the business world, bought a home in Southwest Florida, and underwent somewhat of a revelation in her life.

“I decided to drive across the country,” recalled Watson. “It was an answer-seeking quest. I wanted to ask women who ran their own businesses what drove them, and how their lives had been changed by that spirit.”

Watson “interviewed” some 34 women during her cross-country trek.

“I did it just for myself,” she added. “I wasn’t going to write a book about it, although some people said that I should.”

Upon returning from her quest, she began taking painting and drawing classes with Graham Nixon, even attending a Drawing Marathon in New York with the artist. Watson found herself immediately immersed in the arts and, after flying back to her Naples home, soon opened the Silver Tree School of Painting and Drawing” with area artist Hollis Jeffcoat, whom she had first met at BIG ARTS on Sanibel.

After four years running the art school, Watson again departed the Sunshine State for New York City in 2005.

Three years later, during this past summer, she found herself talking about art again with Paul Rodino and Sherry Rohle. During their discussion, it was suggested that there was a need to bring a fine arts gallery to Southwest Florida, where Watson longed to return. She liked the idea, and even thought of the perfect place to bring such an idea: Sanibel.

“I didn’t want to go into Fort Myers, and I didn’t want to go back to Naples,” she said. “I had always liked Sanibel because it has this great community spirit. Sanibel has always been very supportive of the arts.”

Less than six months after the notion to bring a high-caliber arts gallery to the islands, the Watson MacRae Gallery was born. Its debut exhibition, showcasing the works of area artists Pattie Lipman, Deborah Masters and Jeffcoat, officially opened on Dec. 8 and will run through Jan. 10, 2009.

“The works that I’ve always wanted to show are just wonderful,” Watson explained. “These artists have been working on their crafts all of their lives. The quality of their artistry goes beyond anything I’ve seen before.”

Beginning in January, the gallery will host a series of artist talks. Displays will be rotated on a monthly basis, and each work will be an original, one-of-a-kind piece.

“I want people to know that this is a place that they can come to and hang out,” she added. “They can sit down and just enjoy the artwork on display. We wanted to bring the spirit and energy of the artists to the gallery, and I think we’ve done that.”

The Watson MacRae Gallery, located in The Village Shops (2340 Periwinkle Way, Suite B3), is open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 248-2972 for more information or visit their Web site at www.watsonmacraegallery.com.