Artist Mariapia Malerba in her new studio, surrounded by works from her most recent exhibit, Shodopia. Taking her inspiration from Japanese calligraphy, each panel measures 9 feet by 12 feet and was painted using a broom as a brush.

Arts + Culture

Rollin’ on the River

Fort Myers-based fashion designer and visual artist Mariapia Malerba treks into fresh territory with her new studio on the Caloosahatchee River.

Mariapia Malerba had always fantasized about having her dream studio.  It would be a wide space, much bigger than her in-home studio, where she has to move furniture to different corners of the room in order to create enough floor space to work on her paintings. The space would overlook a body of water, like a river or an ocean, and be tucked between a forest of plants and trees, where big windows faced the beauty of nature and soaked the room in natural light. This dream studio would inspire her, influencing her artwork in unimaginable ways. But for years, that’s all it was: a dream. Until February. That’s when her husband, scrolling through the  online real estate database Zillow, stumbled upon a historic property built in the 1920s. It was a home in Fort Myers, right along the Caloosahatchee River, surrounded by tropical flowers and lush trees. Rooted behind the house was a 1,200-square-foot, two-story building with wood-paneled walls and floor-to-ceiling windows. The couple made an appointment two days later to see the property, and soon after, they bought it. “I have days where I still think I’m dreaming,” the renowned Fort Myers artist says. “That’s the dream place.” Raised in Puglia, Italy, Malerba has been a staple in the Southwest Florida arts community since she moved here in 2009. She’s known for her talents in fashion, painting, installation and theatrical set design. Much of her creative process derives from random fi
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