|Creative Vision Factory Members in front of the Kalmar Nyckel Mural.
Photo courtesy of Michael Kalmbach.
a sign reading “please do not touch the art.” Some galleries are right outside your door. Wilmington’s outdoor gallery boasts artworks ranging from the 19th Century to the present. From memorials and sculptures to mosaics and murals, our environments are beautified by artists. Their creations enliven the cityscape, acting as tangible expressions of their city’s cultural heritage, and becoming beacons for civic engagement, public pride, and even attracting business investments. [READ THE FULL DELART BLOG ENTRY HERE>>>]
A new pilot program called Public Art Stewards — developed by the Delaware Art Museum and supported by the Delaware Division of the Arts and City of Wilmington American Rescue Plan Act funds — aims to train Wilmington residents to clean, conserve, and document 30 public artworks in downtown Wilmington and surrounding neighborhoods.
The Public Art Stewards program was officially launched with a press conference on Thursday, November 17, in front of one of the most visible displays of Wilmington's public art — the mosaic behind Christina Cultural Art Center at the corner of 7th and Shipley.
This highly anticipated workforce training and city beautification program is headed by Benét Burton, Registrar Assistant/Curatorial Project Manager at the Delaware Art Museum.
Benét Burton said of the program: "I’ve been able to speak with some artists of the pieces on our list and engage with residents who live near them. Everyone I have met while working on this project has shared their enthusiasm for it, and I’m excited to support the community and its artists in caring for the work they hold so dear."
We asked Burton more about the project and why it is so important for our City of Wilmington...
The Delaware Art Museum is committed to our role as a regional anchor and aims to support identified needs in our community. By aligning our knowledge of public art with the city’s outdoor gallery, we’ve created an innovative project that will provide our participants with creative skills and support their workforce readiness.
*What will the project entail? What work will your team do on the public pieces?
The Public Art Stewards Training Program is a six-month “earn while you learn” program that employs six to eight Wilmington residents who will be taught transferable skills in conservation under the tutelage of Margalit Schindler of Pearl Preservation, our program conservator. Additionally, our Public Art Stewards will participate in workforce-readiness workshops such as interview practice, digital literacy, financial coaching, and resume building.
Every piece on our list is unique and will have different needs. The transferable skills in conservation our participants will learn while working on the public pieces include assessment and condition reporting; photographic and written documentation; cleaning; and essential maintenance of sculptures and murals.
*What are your goals for the first year of this project? Where is your first area of work based?
Some of our goals for the first year are:
- to have our participants graduating feeling confident in the skills they’ve learned in conservation;
- to have 30 works from Wilmington’s outdoor gallery properly maintained and documented so that we can create a living archive of our city’s public art;
- to connect our participants with local services and help provide them with continued support after graduating.
*Do you have a "favorite" piece of public art in the city? What is the name of the work and where can we see it?
I have many favorite pieces, to be honest, but I will limit myself to one mural and one sculpture.
A mural I’m currently obsessed with is The Divine Mind, 2016 by Terrance Vann on 7th and Windsor Streets. It’s so large and in charge, and the vibrant purple hue is almost like a beacon when you're a block away from it. Although I really love the crown, my favorite part is the way he styled the hair to be a cityscape. I sometimes add a few minutes onto my commute home from work just to drive by it.
My favorite sculpture right now is Shipyard Gateway, 1998 by Roldan West on 4th and Church Streets. It hangs on the overpass in the middle of the street so it’s hard to get a good look at it if you’re not on foot. I’ve always loved metalwork because the technique is so fascinating, and this piece is eye-catching. I really wish it was closer to the ground so that I could sit with it and take in each form.
*Who are some of your favorite Delaware artists?
I love Edward Loper, Jr. When I look at his work, it feels like I’m reminiscing on a dream. The bright colors in his paintings and how he layers them are the first to grab my attention and pull me in. Then I notice the interesting perspective, and I feel I could stare at them for hours and just fall in.
I also really like Geraldo Gonzalez (a.k.a. The King of Transit). I met him at the Creative Vision Factory when I was in undergrad at the University of Delaware. A lot of his work focuses on public transportation. I follow him on Instagram (@thekingoftransit), and I always find myself scrolling through his page and getting lost in all the vivid hues he uses on his pieces. I would love to see his work wrapped on some buses in Wilmington!
*What would you like people to take away from this project? Can other community members get involved?
From this project, I hope that people come to understand how integral public art is to our community and how important it is that we support our local artists and their creations. Wilmington is not just a city, but a canvas for many, and the public art that artists put their time, effort, and care into creating are a celebration of the city’s cultural heritage. Through the Public Art Stewards Program, the Delaware Art Museum aims to leverage its position as a cultural fixture and use its influence and connection to support Wilmington in upkeeping its outdoor gallery. We love these pieces, and we are committed to fighting for and finding resources that will help us and Wilmington residents maintain and archive them so that we can share them with generations after us.
If anyone is interested in getting involved in the project, they can contact me at email@example.com or 302.351.8507.
Program Conservator Margalit Schindler adds: "I am grateful to be able to share my preservation knowledge with my Wilmington neighbors and to collaborate to care for our city. While the program focuses on supporting Wilmington artwork, I am equally excited to support the personal and professional goals of the Wilmington locals who participate in the program."