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Chamber to exhibit shell heart sculpture post-festival

Following its engagement at the 85th Annual Sanibel Shell Festival on March 3-5 at The Community House on Sanibel, a 6-foot, shell-covered heart sculpture will come to rest at the Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce for about 90 days. Local artist Ginny Dickinson is building the “In My Heart of Hearts” sculpture from her Fort Myers “she shed.”

“I’m an insanely crazy shell person,” Dickinson, who works with all-natural materials such as feathers, bark, seeds, moss and “anything I pick up,” said.

Her inspiration and work on the sculpture began during COVID lockdown when she collected shells on Sanibel and other beaches. She gathered a number of intact pen shells, which are heart-shaped when opened flat. Dickinson began filling the heart shapes with other shells and materials. More than a dozen of the pen-shell works will grace the heart form, which is made of fiberglass over a metal frame custom-welded and custom-built by a company in Tampa that also does sculptures for Disney World.

Besides local shells, specimens from Guam dating back to the 1960s and other places, which friends have gifted Dickinson, will cover the heart.

“It’s going to weigh hundreds of pounds,” she said. “I’ll probably need a fork lift to transport it, but I want to transport it myself, just as I did for the manatee.”

Dickinson gained the attention of seashell-lovers last year with a shell-crusted manatee sculpture. For Community Housing and Resources’ Manatee Madness fundraiser, she decorated her manatee contribution with hundreds of shells. “Manatee Mer” got a lot of attention sitting outside of Bailey’s General Store before being sold to a private owner. That attention led to festival organizers appealing to Dickinson for a signature sculpture for their event in March.

“When I found out about it, I immediately contacted Ginny to see if we could display it at the chamber Welcome Center after the festival,” chamber President and Chief Executive Officer John Lai said. “I just felt like it shouldn’t leave the island after such a brief stint. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the chamber’s 60th anniversary this year.”

“I’m so happy this heart can stay a little longer on the island,” Dickinson said. “My hope is that all who view this latest creation are intrigued by the beauty of the shells, find their favorite shells, and share a smile as they walk away. The heart is already getting a lot of smiles here whenever I am working on it. It will be crazy loaded with shells when completed. People will see something new each time they visit.”

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