René Miville has reinvented himself many times over a career that has taken him from sought-after fashion photographer and nationally acclaimed multimedia artist to real estate investor and entrepreneur.
For 11 years, Miville (pronounced mah-ville) has guided entrepreneurial artists to the Franklin Shops, where more than 90 people sell their work. His investment in the historic building led to the rebirth of the River District of Fort Myers.
‘I help people achieve their dreams,’ says Miville of artists selling ceramics, sculpture, clothing, jewelry, art and other products at the 10,000 arts incubator square feet, which also includes a bubble tea room. “We provide management so people can start their own business here.”
At least three entrepreneurs have left to open their own businesses: a café, a biological diaper service and an art gallery. There is now a waiting list of artists selected by the manager. “We like to keep people who are really successful,” says Miville, noting that an artist makes around $20,000 a month. “Their stores have to tell a story. What makes this extra special are the subscribers. Its employees, who are hired for their enthusiasm, rave about the eclectic retail co-op, where artists pay commissions and monthly management fees.
This has allowed artists to quit their corporate jobs to pursue their passions, like Jessica Stachursky, whose Jewel Up by Jessica started with two small rows of cubes upstairs. When her clientele grew, she moved to a 5ft by 6ft spot downstairs and in July expanded to a larger space with a window on Broadway that displays her jewelry, clothes and handbags. hand. “That was the turning point,” says Stachursky, who markets on Etsy, Facebook and Instagram. “He grows up like gangbusters.”
She’s so busy that she’s added other vendors’ products, including her mother’s sarongs and beachwear. “It allows me to have trendy pieces and the time to create unique pieces that no one else will have,” she says.
To increase customer satisfaction, Miville plays music curated by high-fidelity streaming service Tidal, whose high-quality tracks boost shoppers’ endorphins. The boutiques are in such high demand that they have encroached on the second-floor Galerie René Miville, which features two of his works and those of emerging artists, including photojournalist Kinfay Moroti and César Aguilera, whose downtown gallery, Ocasiocasa, closed in 2014.
Miville is also actively involved in protecting Captiva’s wildlife and environment. In November, Swiss artist Simone Eisenbeiss painted a mural depicting endangered Florida wildlife on the side of the building. “Save us,” he pleads.
leave a legacy
What took Miville away from his art was a bad investment of $60,000, which lost $6,000 the next day. But within six weeks he recouped that loss, and six months later he increased it tenfold by investing in IPOs. In six years, he made 1,000 times his initial loss, which put him on the path to entrepreneurship. “People still know me as Rene the Artist,” he says, adding that he turned down a prestigious publisher who wanted to write a book about his art because he hadn’t painted in years.
Miville began her career as a fashion photographer for Vogue Italy, Vogue Deutsch, Turn and others. In the 1980s and 1990s, he turned to abstract expressionism, splattering developer and stopping bath chemicals on large paper with his photographs in his Captiva home. “I would paint with chemistry and preserve photography. I would put pasta in the fixer,” Miville says, showing white lines illuminating a bag lady, transforming her. “It was the dawn of the digital age, and I was going in a different direction.”
His works are in seven museums, including Boca Raton, Denver, Los Angeles and Cologne, and are sought after by collectors, including Graham Nash of Crosby, Stills & Nash, who bought 18 when they first met and went on to over the years. Millions of fans of death metal band Death covet its three album covers, one of which recently sold for $10,100 on eBay. And a PBS documentary aired in the early 2000s, “Master Manipulator: Avant Garde Photographer René Miville”, is still viewed on YouTube.
“The good news is there’s always enough artwork produced for me to have a legacy,” he says. “I have more pieces than Van Gogh and all of them have their relevance. If I want to start full blast again, I could and maybe I will. For now, he wants to enjoy the beaches and his family, and embark on a new project: building accessible homes for teachers in Lee County.