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Local artists gather to turn ‘TowerMobile’ into rolling art

By Staff | Jun 16, 2010

Twenty-four artists from Sanibel's Tower Gallery contributed their artwork that would cover Mark Lwis' 1995 Volkswagen camper van. Pictured from left is Francesco Teresi, Lewis, Carole Nastars, Joan Roberts, Bobbie Matassas and Steve Bufter.

What has four wheels, 24 individual paintings and is the most recognizable vehicle seen anywhere on the islands. It’s the "TowerMobile," of course!

For the second time on two years, Mark Lewis’ 1995 Volkswagen van has been transformed from an inconspicuous while camper into what some have called a "Masterpiece On Wheels."

"We decorated it for the first time in 2008," recalled Lewis, formerly postmaster of the Captiva Post Office. "We were already thinking about turning it into a ‘hippie’ van, so I just asked everybody who wanted to contribute."

During the initial decorating of the vehicle, 20 artists who regularly contribute to the Tower Gallery took part in the collaboration. Last week, the group had grown to 24 artists.

"Everybody is really excited about it," said Lewis, who turned Friday’s "painting party" into a picnic-style atmosphere, complete with a cookout including hot dogs, potato chips and bottled beverages. "I’m a child of the ’60s, so I was looking to do something wild with it anyway."

Artist Mark Lewis stands next to his contribution to the "TowerMobile," a watercolor painting entitled "Sisters."

According to Lewis, most of the artists participating in decorating the "TowerMobile" sent him a file of which of their images they would like to appear on the van. Lewis printed a gilcee of each work on canvas on his home inkjet printer. Each of the finished canvases are then applied to the vehicle with an adhesive, finally covered with a long-lasting and durable marine-quality topcoat.

 Francesco Teresi, a frequent Tower Gallery contributor, stopped by Friday’s painting party with a homemade dessert for his fellow artists to enjoy. He stated that  he liked being a part of something that gets people’s attention.

"This is something that will attract a lot of people," said Teresi, as he prepared to apply his artwork to the van. "I think it’s a great idea to show off your work… people are going to love it!"

Another artist, Carole Nastars, explained that she felt honored to be invited to take part in last week’s decorating event.

"Mark (Lewis) called me and told me what space he had available," she said. "I was going to paint some birds, but because the space was tall and narrow I decided to paint some giraffes on here. And maybe a few zebras. I love to paint animals."

Francesco Teresi applies liberal amounts of an adhesive to the back of his gilcee prior to applying it to the side panel of the van.

The latest edition of the "TowerMobile" will be seen during this year’s annual Independence Day Parade, scheduled to take place on Saturday, July 3 starting at 9:30 a.m. But in the meantime, folks may see it on some of Sanibel or Captiva’s roadways as Lewis drives it around the islands on a daily basis.

Mark Lewis, left, watches fellow artist Steve Bufter prepare his painting to be adhered to the "TowerMobile" last Friday morning.

Shirley Vale's painting is a colorful collection of sunflowers.