This spring, leaders at the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce were brainstorming ways to raise funds not involving “tents and events,” Ann Frescura, the chamber’s executive director, said.
For longtime Siesta Key artist Shawn McLoughlin, the resulting project was a form of divine intervention.
In April, the chamber’s board of directors green-lit a new promotion and fund-raising project: a Siesta-themed children’s picture book called “The ABCs of Siesta Key.” The book was to feature illustrations of things “that are specific to the key, not Florida in general,” said Frescura.
“We loved the idea of having the talent of our favorite local artist available, so we said ‘Let’s call Shawn and see what he says,’” she said. “We were so happy he was excited about it.”
Just seven months prior, McLoughlin, a 1975 graduate of the Ringling College of Art and Design, had been diagnosed with stage 3 pancreatic cancer. He’d been relying on his deeply held faith throughout his recovery, and he saw this new commission as an opportunity to once again channel his faith through his artwork.
“I was told that one of the keys to rebounding from cancer is to find a purpose for living,” said McLoughlin. “‘The ABCs of Siesta Key’ book is a gift from God.”
The chamber quickly secured 20 sponsors at $500 each and will partner with Siesta’s Coastal Printing to produce an initial run of 1,000 books in October. In addition to a release party and book signing, Frescura plans for the books to be available at November’s Crystal Classic. The books will be priced at $14.95 each.
“We want it to be a high-quality keepsake for tourists and residents alike,” said Frescura.
McLoughlin has spent the spring and summer developing ideas. Starting with a list of suggested topics from A to Z provided by the chamber, McLoughlin takes photos and creates sketches of a variety of locations throughout the key.
“This would include the most visible scenes like the beaches and beach life, and also the not-so-visible side of Siesta Key, like beautiful backyard gardens and interesting architectural detail,” he said.
He already loves the first page: A is for alphabet, artist and artwork. The first painting shows a little boy who’s just completed writing the alphabet in the wet sand. There are snowy plovers and wave wash.
“The boy is not distracted from his work,” explained McLoughlin. “He is apparently left-handed, and his finger is still in the channel of the last piece of the Z.”
Exactly one year after the artist’s cancer diagnosis, McLoughlin said his lab results look good, his weight is improving, and he’s seeing a slow but steady improvement in his health.
Frescura and the chamber is eagerly awaiting the final artwork, set to be completed by the end of September. The members have no doubts about its quality.
“Shawn’s expertise and his talent will shine through,” said Frescura. “We’re going to be very proud of this project.”