With families and friends returning to the shore for the holiday weekend, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the season. But, for many, the Thanksgiving holiday brings with it something else: The SouthEastern Delaware Artist Studio Tour (SEDAST) will return to the region, granting a free peek for the public into the studios and workings of some of the area’s most renowned artists and craftsmen.
On Friday and Saturday, Nov. 28 and 29, tour-goers will have the chance to return to the start of the art, to see where wonders are created, visiting studios and workspaces of some of Delaware’s most talented artists.
This year, 14 well-known artists will be headlining the tour, along with four newcomers.
Theresa Richard’s macro pastel paintings, with their bright, vibrant color have been featured in a variety of shows and at area restaurants. John Donato has put a recognizable, whimsical feel in his acrylic paintings, highlighting everything from illustrations in children’s books and on greeting cards to unmistakable murals around the Bayside community in West Fenwick Island.
Up-and-coming fiber artist Jill Thomas adds a new spectrum of art to SEDAST, combining colors, shapes and patterns into original masterpieces. Using genuine and meticulous metal-making processes, Keith Toms demonstrates exemplary metal crafts, from functional products to ornamental sculptural works.
“This weekend should be really exciting,” said Thomas. The fine-arts major, who previously studied illustration and worked with pen and ink, was introduced to fabric works by her mother-in-law. Thomas has steered toward a traditional form of her work, framing her finished fabric pieces.
“I’m pretty new to the art scene, locally,” she added, “and it’s a great way for me to kick things off and get my name out there. I’ve already met a lot of new talented artists. They’ve been a lot of help with getting me started, and I’ve made some good connections.”
While Donato’s work is becoming more and more recognized in Delaware and New Jersey, the tour will provide him the opportunity to take his talent to the next level.
“This is one of the most significant things I’ve become involved with, in terms of the art scene,” he admitted. “The amount of exposure and support as a new artist is amazing. Up until this year, I was an attendant at the tour, and I loved going to it. It’s an honor to actually be a part of it now. I’ve done a lot to prepare for this.
“I can showcase my work at my studio and help others understand what it takes to accomplish a dream like this,” Donato added. “The support from other artists has been tremendous. The tour is probably the closest thing to having my own gallery. Events like this really put you on the map. It helps me stay involved and connects me with the fine-arts market.”
SEDAST guests will be pleased to see the return of some of their favorite and cherished artists, from Laura Hickman’s pastels and watercolors of Aubre Duncan, metal and mixed media crafts by Grant Massey to glass works of Justin Cavagnaro and Philip G. Adkins. Once again, these veteran SEDAST exhibitors will be featured, along with Tara Funk Grim (water media and collage), Jennifer Carter (watercolor, oil and murals), Ellen Rice (oils, pastels and pen-and-ink), Barbara Deitrick (watercolors, oil, ink and colored pencils), Damon Pla (murals, oils and acrylics), Anne Hanna (watercolors), Ralph Semsker (watercolors, acrylics and illustration), Kim Doughty (ceramic artist) and Tom Frey (woodturner).
For Grant Massey, who has traveled the country promoting and selling his metal and mixed-media fine crafts, SEDAST offers a comforting alternative.
“Going on the road and doing shows can be exhausting,” he said. “It has really changed with the economy over the past few years. You don’t always sell as much, and it can be riskier. It’s really gratifying to have people come to the shop and make connections that way.”
A SEDAST veteran from the start of the tour, Massey has seen the event grow over nearly a decade and a half.
“From beginning,” he said, “we started seeing success. The first one was done on one day, and there were so many people who attended that by the second year we decided that we needed two days. Attendance has been steady over the years, based on the money we bring in from the raffle.”
As years go by, a younger wave of artists have made their way onto the tour and into the local scene.
“We’ve got a good, solid, institutional basis,” said Massey. “Damon [Pla] and Justin [Cavagnaro] took over running the tour, and it’s obviously a generational thing. We didn’t know if it would make it or not, but they’ve brought new ideas, and really helped develop the Web site, which has been a great aspect for us.”
Gary Hanna, husband of SEDAST artist Anne Hanna and former publicity director for the event, recognized the significance of the weekend for many local artists.
“This is one of the major events in state,” he said, “and a major one down here. There are art leagues in Rehoboth and Lewes, but a large group of artists are centered on the Route 26 corridor. Art has really expanded all over beach community.”
And it’s not just the artists who are benefiting from the event. Each of the participants contributes one item for “Art in the Hat,” a raffle giving those attending the tour the opportunity to win one (or more) of 19 original pieces of artwork. Money raised from the raffle ticket sales goes back to the younger artists.
“Art in the Hat,” now in its ninth year, was started as a way to ensure a promising future for the younger, creative minds of the next generation of artists. Earlier this year, the “Art in the Hat” raffle helped bring $1,500 to Sussex Central High School’s art program, allowing for the purchase of an animation lab for art director Judith Loeber and her classes. Lord Baltimore Elementary and Selbyville Middle schools also received $500 apiece for their art programs.
Tickets for the “Art in the Hat” raffle are available online and will be on hand at several of the studios during the tour. The raffle tickets are $10 apiece or three for $25.
The 14th Annual Southeastern Delaware Artist Studio Tour will take place this weekend, Nov. 28 and 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day, in studios from Bethany Beach to Dagsboro. The tour is free and self-guided. Visit www.artstudiotour.com online for more information about the tour, including information on the artists and the raffle and a map to participating studio locations. Brochures can also be found at the artists’ studios, local post offices and many businesses in the area.