Sussex County certainly has its fair share of venues to enjoy local art. But the only place to see that art while it unfolds is at the 21st Annual SouthEastern Delaware Artists Studio Tour (SEDAST) this Friday, Nov. 27, and Saturday, Nov. 28.
“The SEDAST tour is comprised of artists from the local area. What they do is they open their studios every year for two days,” explained Jeanne Mueller of Gallery One in Ocean View, a PR representative for the event. “You can go in and watch the artists work, view their artwork, ask them questions.
“You can go to an art show and you can see an artist, meet an artist and see the art hanging on the wall, but to my knowledge this is the only event where you can go and see the artist actually work in their studio.”
The two-day event will comprise 15 of the area’s top artists, some of them joining the tour for the first year and some of them the usual suspects. But Mueller said that even some of the returning artists will be breaking out some new kinds work that are far from usual — including Clarksville’s John Donato, who will be showing off some of his new wooden children’s toys.
“You’ll not only see his paintings, but you’ll see new things that he’s doing — and that holds true with a lot of the artists,” Mueller explained. “There’s always something different for people to see.”
The wide variety of art ranges from painting in various media to glass blowing, wood turning, pottery and even stained glass, with each artist bringing their own twist on their respective specialties.
As a self-guided tour, those interested in checking it out are free to go to as many or as few stops as they’d like along the way, over one day or both, and to do it in any order that they chose, with studio locations from Bethany Beach and to Dagsboro. Gallery One, and other tour stops provide maps of the tour locations for patrons to plot their route.
“We’ll have brochures on hand and things to help them out. The map will tell you exactly where the artists are located,” Mueller noted. “It’s a self-guided tour — you get in your car and go see whoever you want to see. The people can go however they want to go — some people start in Dagsboro and work their way to the beach; some people start at the beach and work their way to Dagsboro.”
Whichever way you decide to go, you’re liable to see some familiar faces along the way.
“Part of the fun is that you see some of the same people every year,” Mueller said. “It’s amazing how many people do this tour every single year. It’s just a fun thing for people to do.”
Typically, SEDAST sees around 200 people along the tour, so considering its popularity, it’s no wonder that it’s one of the longest tenured events of its kind, at least according to what Mueller and Gallery One can gather.
But while the focus of the festivities will all be on the artists on Friday and Saturday, Mueller said that the main focus of SEDAST remains on the tour’s beneficiary — art programs at local schools. Each year, participating artists raffle off some of their work with an “Art in the Hat raffle” in an effort to raise funds for the art programs throughout the Indian River School District to buy necessary items. And since the tour’s inception, SEDAST has raised more than $50,000 to do just that.
“Not only is the tour about the art but the Art in the Hat Raffle,” said Mueller. “it’s a twofold thing: It’s the artists reaching out to show their art work and meet new people. But it’s also their way of giving back — if you buy a raffle ticket, you might get a free piece of artwork, and everything goes to the schools.”
Mueller explained that the fundraising efforts are, of course, much-needed, as typically programs for art and music are the first to get cut when the school’s budget gets tight.
“One of the first things to go in any education process are art and music,” she said. “I think it’s very important — it’s money that goes back into the community through the art department so the children have the ability to learn art. You need that for rounding/ Kids love art, they just do.”
The 21st Annual Southern Delaware Artists Studio Tour kicks off this Friday, Nov. 27, and Saturday, Nov. 28, at 10 a.m. each day, and spans until 4 p.m. There is no charge to attend. For more information on the event visit the website at www.artstudiotour.com.