This holiday weekend, art aficionados can stay warm in creative style while getting an early start on holiday shopping during the 19th Annual SouthEastern Delaware Artists Studio Tour (SEDAST).
“When it started, a group of seven local artists wanted to have a venue near home where they could promote their work and have people see it, and have it be an educational process at the same time,” explained Patricia Frey, who coordinates the event. “Last year, we had between 5,000 and 6,000 people throughout the whole event.”
SEDAST will take place this year on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29 and 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. More than a dozen artists will open their studios to the public and allow them to witness their creative processes.
“It’s one of the most fun to spend a day or two days,” she said. “You can visit each studio. The artist can take the time to speak directly with you about their work. As many of them as possible demonstrate their process. For example, a lot of the artists have a picture or painting in process. They can show you how they might go about how to proceed on the painting they’re working on.
“It’s a way of meeting Americans who create work in their own homes,” she added. “Of course, we feed you all day. That’s another draw. Everybody has food to offer, and everyone has been doing it so many years, everyone has a special dish of their own to offer.”
Jeanne Mueller, who does oil, mixed media and watercolor, said this is her third year with the tour and that she enjoys it when the public visits her studio.
“I love it. I think it’s one of the best things about the tour, is the fact that people can come to the studio and they can actually see where I’m working,” Mueller said. “I also try to have things in process so they can see where I am, how I’m working. It’s a fun thing, because it shows them how the creation takes place,” she said. “And when people do that and then buy that piece of art, they have that memory which goes along with it, which I think is nice.”
According to Frey and Mueller, SEDAST is one of the longest-running artist studio tours of its kind.
“It’s one of the longest continually running studio tours of its kind,” explained Frey. “It’s basically still run by the artists themselves, and that’s rather unusual. Studio tours of this type tend not to last this long. But this group has been very determined they were going to do whatever it took to continue to give themselves the venue to sell their work and give back to the communities where they live and work.”
Giving back to their community, said Frey, was so important that, early on, the artists decided to hold a raffle coinciding with the tour, to raise money for area schools’ arts programs.
“At that time when we first started, a lot of us had children of our own in the schools and realized there were very little monies available to our art programs. This group, as artists in general, believes that our lives and the world is better when we have an appreciation for the arts,” she said.
“As a part of their participation, each artist donates an original work, or in the case of the painters, they may donate a limited-edition print. We sell tickets, and all the proceeds from the sale of those tickets produces the raffle pool. Absolutely 100 percent of all those monies go to the district schools for their art programs. This was a way for keeping the money in the local community and giving to something that was very dear to their hearts as artists themselves.”
Frey said that, as of last year’s tour, the Art in the Hat Raffle has raised $44,555 for local schools.
“The community, from the very beginning, has been extremely supportive,” said Frey.
“It gives back to the community through the schools by giving the schools money for their art education, which these days can be pretty slim for them,” added Mueller. “I think the arts make a child better rounded. I think that it helps their creativity, their imagination… It opens new vistas for them.”
Mueller said that she has been involved in the arts since a very early age and that it has always been a wonderful outlet for her, which is why, she said, she believes it’s important to support art education.
“I painted my mother’s sofa when I was 4. I didn’t win a prize, I might add,” she said with a laugh. “I was always involved in something that was creative. I always liked dealing with some sort of artwork or craft. I found when I was working it was a wonderful way for me to relax.”
Frey said this year’s 13 artists, who range in media from a wood-turner, a jewelry-maker and a glass artist, to painters and more, are all local artists who are involved in the community.
“They chose artists who live and work in the area — from Route 54 to Indian River and up as far as Dagsboro,” she said. “These are the people you see all year long in the grocery stores, in the salons, spas, the banks. They live and work in the area.”
“When people come onto this area, either as a visitor or a resident, they all consider it a special place,” added Mueller. “I think we’re very lucky to have so many wonderful artists in this area.”
Frey added that she hopes this year’s tour will be a success and will raise more than $5,000 to give back to the local schools.
“It would be wonderful for them to begin work on their 20th anniversary in 2014 having given $50,000 to the schools. That would be a really great thing to have happen.”