A new gallery in Skegness has become a tribute to the wife of the businessman who inspired it.
‘Art for the People’ opened its doors on Thursday - the day after the sad death of Lesley-Ann Sparkes following a brave battle with cancer,
Her husband, Russ, said the family discussed whether the opening should go ahead but their daughters, Vanessa and Nicola, felt it would have been Lesley’s wish that it should.
“It’s what she would have wanted and I am grateful to all who came to share this day with us,” he said.
Taking pride of place amongst the art on display at the gallery in Lumley Road is a painting of the Grosvenor House Hotel - specially commissioned as a Christmas present for Lesley who owned it.
Russ said: “Lesley had been in a coma for four days and I had been agonising about what to do about the painting. I took it home and she opened her eyes. I asked her what she thought and she said, ‘Beautiful’.”
The artist who painted it, former Skegness Grammar School student Ed Waite, performed the official opening ceremony, along with the Mayor of Skegness Coun Danny Brookes, gallery manageress Kasia Chotenovska, of Poland, and Maggie Rhodes.
Ed, whose studio is in Lincoln where he studied art at university, said: “It’s nice for me to come back to the town where I first became inspired to paint and be part of the opening of the gallery.
“I still have paintings up at Skegness Grammar but when I began my art journey there was nothing like this.
“The gallery will provide a perfect platform for young artists.”
As well as Ed’s painting, 95 per cent of the art on show is from Russ’ own collection. Surrey artist Neil Wilkins also had some of his RNLI work on show, with the proceeds, including from nine Russ bought for the gallery, going to the charity.
The former police officer said he had been inspired by the RNLI from the days he sailed. He said: “I’ve raised more than £500 to date for the RNLI. The gallery is something Skegness should be proud of.”
Manager Kasia said: “So many people stopped and showed an interest in what we were doing when we were getting ready.
“We hope they will come and have a look now we are open and fall in love with art.”
Coun Brookes said the new gallery was a welcome addition to an area of the main shopping street that has been dominated with charity shops. He said: “This is fantastic for the town and I hope it will inspire others to try something different.”