Art Delaware Live Featured Headlines

Diamond Dance Company Nutcracker performance planned

by Terry Rogers

Traditionally, Diamond Dance Company annually performs The Nutcracker at local high schools and the performance has become a holiday tradition for many families. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Aimee String, Director of the dance company, explained that they had difficulty finding a location for the ballet.

“Fortunately, several of our instructors have done choreography for theater productions at Possum Point Players,” String said. “We know the stage and theater and felt comfortable that even with some modifications to the show, we could still pull off a show that our dancers will be proud of.”

This year’s performance will be held December 18 through 20 at the Possum Point Players Theater, located at 441 Old Laurel Road in Georgetown. All audience members and dancers will be required to wear masks. Seating is extremely limited as well.

“The changes in recommendations and regulations this year have constantly kept us on our toes,” String said. “The safety of our dancers is our biggest priority. We sat down with our senior company members before auditions this year and told them that there was a very real possibility that we would start rehearsing for the show and it would never make it onto a stage. Every single dancer told us that they just wanted to dance and would take the risk.”

String explained that the artistic staff felt they needed to commit to being as flexible as possible and get the dancers on stage as soon as they could. Although the show will look a lot different this year, String and the other staff members felt it was important for the dancers as many dream of dancing in this ballet.

“We will perform for an audience of 50 parents each show,” String said. “We will practice social distancing backstage and in the audience. We will also continue to monitor changes made by the Department of Public Health and make further changes if necessary. Because we are limited in the number of tickets we can sell, we are looking into ways to livestream the performance.”

In addition to face coverings and social distancing, String stated that there were other changes necessary to present the ballet. The stage at Possum Point is smaller than at the local high schools which meant that adjustments needed to be made as far as choreography. In addition, the role of Clara will be performed by senior company members Zoe Lasher and Karsyn Bradley. The difficulty of the role has also been increased with Clara dancing more than when younger members of the dance company performed the role.

“We’ve also refreshed and changed some costumes,” String said. “Keep a look out for super adorable new ginger babies just to name my favorite costume. We could not be more grateful for Possum Point Players willingness to support our production this year. I know it seems like it’s just a show, but to our dancers this is their dream come true.”

String stated that information about livestreaming will be released through their Facebook page and on their website.

Art Featured Health Music Scene About Town

What’s a choir to do? Sing in a Delaware parking garage

garage sing
The choir members were spread out over 40 feet and wore masks while performing, sometimes to piana music powered by a (really) long extension cords.

Accustomed to gathering regularly to make music, those of us who are choral singers have had six months without this (often weekly) source of comfort and joy.

You can sing along with recordings, embark on some sporadic ventures on YouTube, or even warble in the shower. But it’s not the same as joining with others to craft something that’s greater than yourself. 

Ensembles everywhere are looking for ways to stay connected, and throughout the pandemic, conductor David Schelat has been Zooming with members of his three ensembles – Mastersingers of Wilmington, Center City Chorale and the Chancel Choir of First & Central Presbyterian Church – to keep their collegial spirit alive.

But recently, he decided it was appropriate and timely to sing again. 

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In mid-September, David invited members of these groups to meet downtown. Strictly adhering to gathering requirements, he required masks and RSVPs and limited us to 30 of a potential 70 singers.

The response was – not surprisingly – enthusiastic.

And so, on an early October Saturday morning, with the generous assent of facilitys owner Buccini/Pollin Group, we trudged up steps to the top level of a downtown Orange Street parking garage. There we picked up prepared packets of music, arranged ourselves in four voice sections on our blue tape marks, pulled out the five chosen choral works, and began to sing. 

Choral singing is universally loved by its worldwide participants, who cite the sense of community it creates as they breathe together, listen to one another and seek a unified sound.  It embraces singers of all types – from enthusiastic volunteers to professionals – and our group was no exception.

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Several were highly trained, sought-after paid singers; others were (as one singer self-described) “a church choir soprano.” But we were all there for the same reason, and it was heartening and moving to gather once again.

David chose a variety of music, and we began with a work many of us knew – the motet “Rejoice in the Lord Always,” written by that famous composer Anonymous sometime in the 16th century.

Each singer was at least 6 feet from the next person (sometimes more), with the entire group spreading about 40 feet from side to side.

Garage sing
Members of three choirs arrive to spread out and try to blend their voices in a concrete parking garage.

Choir members normally like to be in proximity, so at first our attempt to achieve a blended sound across those distances was challenging – even humorous. But oddly, the garage’s vaulting open spaces and its drab concrete surfaces were surprisingly cathedral-like – one singer called it “the Garage Majal” – and slowly, we got a group sound going.

After we acquired some choral equilibrium, we sang David’s own 2006 composition “If Ye Love Me,” a touching anthem, especially in these times, and a favorite of his singers. Then we launched into the lively “Soon-Ah Will Be Done” in an arrangement by William Dawson, a Black composer who was one of the first to bring spirituals into the concert halls. 

Next, David led us in Louis Vierne’s powerful “Kyrie” from his “Solemn Mass.”. Vierne was the organist at Notre Dame from 1900 t0 1937, and the work was written to be sung in the vast spaces of that Parisian cathedral (alas, no music there now after the great fire). It sounded surprisingly resonant in our “garage acoustic.” 

And we finished with a rousing Zulu song, most probably murdering that liquid language but reveling in its triumphant music. 

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Some of these works were sung a cappella (without any accompaniment), while for others David played on an electronic keyboard powered by a really, really long extension cord. The hour-long gathering felt safe and welcoming.

Above all, even though we couldn’t greet one another with the usual hugs or handshakes, it was powerful to be once again in a musical embrace.

“People who love singing together have missed it a lot,” said David, “and I felt that this was a way to pull these singers together in a way what would be both safe and meaningful.” 

Our enterprising conductor is planning another garage gathering Saturday, and he’s expecting another enthusiastic response.

Gail Obenreder is a member of Mastersingers of Wilmington and writes about the arts for various publications.


Art Business Featured Health Scene About Town

Sick of COVID-19 sweatpants and tees, Beth Buccini designs her own line of clothing

Frustrated by not being able to find the kind of casual clothes she wanted while months in  Zoom meetings stretched on, Beth Buccini designed her first collection of clothing.

The Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, resident’s line of dresses, T-shirts and masks will be sold in Kirna Zabête, her chic chain of four dress shops that stretch from Soho in New York City to Palm Beach, Florida, as well as online.

“It really started with the T-shirt,” Buccini said. “I was just sitting around all the time. I had been through my tees. I was bored with them. Too tight. Too long. Too loose.”

She wanted something with a little style.

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“We’re are all on Zoom all the time doing meetings, so you want to have a little necklace or something,” she said. “I wanted a scoop neck with a bit of cap sleeves. I didn’t want it to be too tight or too loose, and I really wanted it to be made in America and to be sustainable.”

By the time she was done, the Kirna Zabête Exclusive Collection introduced this month included three dresses, three kinds of tees and a set of comfy face masks made from leftover T-shirt material.

Buccini, mother of four and wife of Rob Buccini of the Buccini/Pollin Group, believes people coping with the coronavirus lockdown have gotten used to “our sweatpant life.”

“So comfortable is not going to go away,” she said, as people continue to work from home. “We’re all going to want to be comfortable.”

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Her dresses, tees and masks are made from cotton with a touch of stretch.

“We’ve made such progress with our technology with fabrics,” she said. “There’s no reason to buy fabrics that don’t feel good against your skin, that give a little movement with you and feel great.”

Buccini has loved putting outfits together since she was a child. She can remember what she wore on her first day of first grade, and in high school she kept a daily list of her outfits.

Her first jobs after earning her degrees in art history and French literature at the University of Virginia, were covering fashion, including being the fashion editor of New York Magazine. She’s owned Kirna Zabête — “fashion’s happy place” — since 1999. Familiar with how clothes are made and sold, designing her own line wasn’t a giant leap but was a lot of fun at such a dreary time.

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The core of the collection is her three dresses, all designed to be forgiving for those who may be struggling to lose the COVID 15.

“I absolutely love a dress,” Buccini said. “By the time we had gotten into high summer, I was sick of my sweatpants. I wanted something that felt cute, but I wanted it to feel like you’re in a really comfortable nightgown, but you look really good.”

She said she had a closet full of print dresses, and her stores are full of them.

“But at the end of the day, I just wanted to throw something on that felt like a house dress, like old Italian women,” she said, laughing.

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The collection’s three dresses are named for her two daughters.

“It was really personal for me to make them,” she said.

The Olympia is a glamorous, almost retro house dress in Kirna Zabête’s signature red ($425), given her oldest daughter’s middle name. The Virginia, named for Buccini’s younger daughter, is white with a looser fit and features a self-fabric tie that can be worn four ways to make the dress tight or loose ($395). The Josephine, a black sundress with simple shoulder straps, can be dressed up or down and is named for her oldest daughter ($425).

The sundress has been on her mind a long time. She started hunting for one last summer when she had a work trip to Europe, with a family vacation tacked on. She wanted a black sundress she could dress up for the Paris fashion shows, but dress down for the beach. 

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“I couldn’t find one that I was satisfied with,” she said. 

Now she sells one, along with three different kind of T-shirts.

Her scoop neck tee ($115) features the cap sleeves she wanted, back seam detail and is cut to flatter all figures with a loose fit around the mid-section and ideal hip-length hemline. The sleeveless, crew neck muscle tee ($95) is designed to not be too tight or too loose and look great by itself or layered under something else. The longer sleeve fitted ribbed tee ($115) features a lower hemline so it can be worn on its own or paired with a blazer or slip dress. 

Kirna Zabête’s comfortable masks all have names — Read My Lips, Speak From Your Heart and Written in the Stars — and feature jaunty emblems that tie into the names. They sell for $20 each or $50 for a bundle of all three. Part of the proceeds is being donated to the NYC Health and Hospitals Health Care Heroes Fund.

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“We knew the masks were going to be huge because we had gotten them from a few other vendors and they’re selling really, really well,” Buccini said. “I wanted something that I could just toss into the washing machine, that wasn’t going to be a big drama to hand wash.”

The line follows Buccini’s joyous approach to fashion. Her stores are filled with colorful, unique attire from established and new designers, with special occasion dresses as well as lots of denim.

“I have always felt that fashion is supposed to be fun,” she said. “I always say we’re providing solutions to make women feel great.” 

While many people think of Kirna Zabête as a designer store, she said, it includes many items with lots of price points.

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“I want to dress a woman seven days a week, and I know that you don’t wear designer all the time,” she said. “That’s not the life anyone is living.”

Buccini was in Paris at the fall shows when COVID-19 began to blow up around the world. With people talking about the illness sweeping through Milan and Paris institutions starting to close, she tried to move her return plane ticket up, but couldn’t. She flew back on March 7, and businesses were shut down March 16.

She and her staff started consulting with all the companies they bought from, because factories and supply chains also shut down. At the same time, so did the weddings, baby and bridal showers and First Communions for which they sold dresses. 

As society slowed down and Buccini and her staff worked on what was available for spring, “We really kind of thought, well, we’re missing some things.”

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“I’ve had my business for 21 year now,” she said. “I’m always on the sales floor and always talking to clients, and I knew that there were things that we wanted that were basic items that I just couldn’t find. I wanted to make them.”

She’s also been doing online styling sessions with clients, helping them edit their closets and was more aware than usual of what people wanted.

“Good lord, how many sweat pants can you wear?” she asks. “You just don’t feel good. This is just a trying time. Fashion is supposed to be the armor that we use to survive every day life. 

“For me, I wanted something easy and I wanted comfortable and I wanted joy and I wanted to feel good, whether I was doing a Zoom meeting, home schooling children, grocery shopping or cooking dinner for the 15th time that week. I just thought, ‘I need a little happiness here.'”

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Her children — Josephine, 17, Virginia, 15, Balthazar, 14, and Shepherd, almost 12 — are remote schooling from home. 

All of her stores closed at the start of the pandemic. They’ve all reopened except the Soho store, which was looted and damaged during protests in New York. She plans for it to open by Nov. 1.

For 11 years, she took the train to New York twice a week, leaving early in the morning and trying to be home in time to tell her children good night. Now she drives up once a week.

More people have returned to the city as schools have opened, she said. The streets are not busy, she said, but outdoor dining has given New York a more European feel. 

Buccini didn’t consider not reopening the Soho store, and won’t put any stock in those who say New York is finished.

“I would never bet against New York City,” she said. “I still think it’s such an amazing city.”






Art beach Entertainment Featured

Murals around state create trail of interactive street art

Newark artist Natalia Ciriaco “was inspired by the beautiful landscape, and the important elements that represent the town” in creating her mural that’s part of the new Delaware Discoveries Trail.

“I wanted the mural to fit in Wyoming, and for people to feel like they were part of the town,” said Ciriaco, a Newark Charter art teacher and Delaware’s Art Teacher of the Year in 2015.

That’s why her interactive street art incorporates peaches, sunflowers and the railroad.

The trail, the Delaware Tourism Office’s fifth thematic way to explore the state, has been in development for over a year to boost off-season visitation and draw younger travelers. Its debut in a time of coronavirus restrictions adds a chance to promote it as a socially distant outdoor activity.

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The trail was launched Sept. 21, featuring nine pieces of street art intended for selfies. To encourage the sharing, when visitors take photos in front of at least four pieces and upload them at the Delaware Discoveries Trail, they get a free paint pour kit developed with the Developing Artist Collaboration.

“It’ll be fun to see how creative people will be” with photos, said office director Liz Keller.

Officials hope for comments like this, from Ohio photographer Debbi Bollman on Instagram: “Big Chill Beach Club in Bethany Beach. I made a special trip here specifically to see the mural by the amazingly talented @kelseymontagueart and it did not disappoint! Little did I know, this place is really cool – great atmosphere, a view of the Indian River Inlet Bridge at sunset, and an awesome mural by @paulcarpenterart as well!” (Paul Carpenter’s mural in the club is not part of the trail.)

The locations were picked to be scattered around the state and showcase different fun things, such as breweries, places to eat, historical sites and scenic spots, Keller said.

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The artists were picked by whose work matched the location. One artist (Christian Kanienberg) was selected through a contest, and the rest were selected with the Developing Artist Collaboration. 

Five artists are from Delaware, and Kelsey Montague is internationally famous, Keller said. So famous that people have waited an hour to pose in front of a Montague work in Nashville, she said.

“Art can spark joy and bring people together,” Montague said in a statement. “I hope my work encourages people to explore the great outdoors.”

Montague loves to create butterflies, and many of the photos on her Instagram account show happy people and pets centered between the wings.

The project cost $100,000, mostly to pay artists, which Keller called important in today’s economic doldrums. The office already has requests from more locations and more artists to get involved.

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What you’ll see

The office commissioned six artists to paint nine pieces of outdoor artwork at these locations:

  • Big Chill Beach Club, 27099 Coastal Highway, Bethany Beach. The trail’s “brightest and beachiest,” by Kelsey Montague.
  • Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Refuge Entrance Road, Smyrna. A butterfly just outside the entrance pavilion, by Montague.
  • Cape May-Lewes Ferry terminal, 43 Cape Henlopen Drive, Lewes. “An underwater sea adventure,” by Christian Kanienberg of Bellefonte.
  • DE Turf, 4000 Bay Road, Frederica. Soccer-themed piece on the athletic complex’s main building and visible from Del. 1, by Michael Johnson of Lewes.
  • Delaware Art Museum, 2301 Kentmere Parkway, Wilmington. A peacock-inspired rainbow of colors, by Laura Erickson of Rehoboth Beach.
  • Delaware Children’s Museum, 550 Justison St., Wilmington. A floral map of the world that’s the most intriguing of the nine, by Erickson.
  • Hagley Museum and Library, 200 Hagley Creek Road, Greenville. A floral work, not attached to a building, on Workers’ Hill near the picnic pavilion, by Leah Beach of Dewey Beach.
  • Mispillion River Brewing Co., 255 Mullett Run St., Milford. “Tap-centric artwork,” by Johnson.
  • Wyoming Town Hall, 1 Railroad Ave. Homage to old-time farming, by Natalia Ciriaco of Newark.

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Most sites are free to visit. Hagley charges admission. The Big Chill Beach Club is in the Delaware Seashore State Park, which charges an entrance fee March 1-Nov. 30. 

The tourism office encourages people to view its Go-to-Guide for how to #ExploreSafelyDE. 

The office’s other trails are the Delaware Culinary Trail, the Delaware History Trail, the Delaware on Tap Trail and the Delaware Outdoor Trail.


Art Business Entertainment Featured Health

Delaware arts go virtual: Symphony season all online, DelShakes creates game show

The Delaware Symphony Orchestra will go virtual for its 2020=2021 season
The Delaware Symphony Orchestra will go virtual for its 2020-2021 season

NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect accurate location of DSO’s chamber concerts.

With no clear path to safely put butts into seats, two of Delaware’s biggest arts organizations are going virtual.

The Delaware Symphony Orchestra is offering a fully digital season, recording performances and releasing them to subscribers.

Delaware Shakespeare’s annual fundraiser goes online with “Play On!,” a theatrical game show featuring Del-ebrities playing some of the Bard’s characters and being coached by actors.

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DSO’s season will feature three chamber music programs and six performances in its Classic Series. While the chamber programs, which features up to 5 musicians, will have already sold-out audiences in the DuPont Country Club’s Crystal Ballroom, the Classic performances will be done without an audience. They’ll be filmed by a camera crew on a Friday, edited and mastered and then released to subscribers on a Tuesday.

“Though the method of delivery will be completely new for us, the music will be the same—from classics, to lesser-known gems, the season will have the appeal of an in-person one without any of the risks,” said Symphony Music Director David Amado in a press release.

Digital season subscriptions and single tickets are available for purchase on the Symphony’s website.

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“As early as last March, we understood that the 2020-2021 season would not look anything like normal,” said Executive Director J.C. Barker. “Our first step was to move the bulk of our season past the beginning of January 2021. We have since watched closely and listened to the science as the virus has progressed.”

Delaware Symphony Orchestra Executive Director J.C. Barker
J.C. Barker

Ticket holders and their household will receive a unique link to view the concert as soon as it premieres. They will also be able to view the performance multiple times for 30 days after it goes live. 

The chamber performances will be available for viewing on Oct. 27, Nov. 24 and Dec. 15. The classical performances will be available Jan. 26, Feb. 16, March 30, April 13, May 11 and June 8. 

Programs will include symphonies by Haydn, Mendelssohn, Beethoven and Schubert, as well as Aaron Copland’s suite from the ballet “Appalachian Spring,” Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings,”  and Stravinsky’s “Pulcinella.” They also will feature shorter works by American composers such as Ruth Crawford Seeger, George Walker and Alfred I. du Pont winner Claude Baker.

The classical performances will feature fewer musicians than DSO patrons are accustomed to. A maximum of 44 will play, Barker said.

“Crafting the season while slaloming through the limits and vagaries created by the pandemic has been a puzzle,” said Amado. “But I am thrilled at the results. The season is wide-ranging and appealing – old works and new, with music written for the concert hall, the ballet stage and even the silver screen.”

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The musicians will be socially distanced while practicing and performing. String and percussion musicians will wear masks. Others will use plastic screens to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Throughout months of planning, the multiple conversations among musicians, board and staff established a set of guidelines that the DSO believes will keep everyone safe during the season.

“We are so excited to get back to performing for our wonderful DSO audience,” said James Finegan, DSO Players’ Committee chair. “This has been a difficult time for many musicians, and we absolutely miss the energy and satisfaction that come from performing for an audience. For most of us, this has been the longest break from performing that we’ve ever experienced. While this season will look a little different, it will give us a chance to perform some new and exciting repertoire.”

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With the help of money from the National Endowment of the Arts’ share of the CARES Act funding, Delaware Shakespeare has embraced a variety of programming including Soliloquy Strolls through Rockwood Park and an online evening of Shakespeare and cooking.

Now “Play On!” will take place Oct. 2 at 7 p.m. Tickets start at $90 and ticket holders will be sent a link in order to access the event. 

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The competition, styled after “The Voice” in which professionals coach amateurs, will ask the Delaware celebrities to perform scenes from Shakespeare’s plays and try to raise the most donations for Delaware Shakespeare.

Delaware Shakespeare David Stradley
David Stradley

“Audiences will get a behind-the-scenes look at what happens when well-known Delawareans take their first crack at performing Shakespeare,” says David Stradley, producing artistic director of DelShakes.

“The smack talk from our coaches is already at fever pitch as their actors get ready to compete and raise funds supporting our efforts to bring theatre up and down the First State.”

Tina and Rick Betz will compete as Lady Macbeth and Macbeth, coached by Newton Buchanan, seen as Master Page in “The Merry Wives of Windsor” in 2019.

Guillermina Gonzalez and Charles Sobrero will showcase their control of Spanish and English in a reading of Viola and Orsino from “Twelfth Night,” assisted by coach Liz Filios, who is writing Del Shakes’ bilingual musical adaptation of “Twelfth Night.”

Sarah McBride will take on Shakespeare heroine Rosalind from “As You Like It,” coached by Danielle Leneé, who played Rosalind in 2017.

Michelle Mitchell and Chuck Lewis, superstars from the hospitality industry, will brawl as the inhospitable lovers Kate and Petruchio from “The Taming of the Shrew.” J Hernandez, Benedick in “Much Ado About Nothing,” will coach them.

Art Education Featured Health Scene About Town

Kids create art work for social distance floor spacers in Delaware Art Museum contest


Delaware Art Museum contest for kids to create socially distance floor spacers.
Claire Robinson created this image of her sister for the Delaware Art Museum’s Creative Spacers

Go ahead. Step on Claire Robinson’s painting of her sister.

She won’t mind.

She painted it with the expectation that  you would. 

Robinson was one of nine young artists who responded to the Delaware Art Museum’s Creative Spacers Youth Art Contest this month. They were asked to create an image that could be used as a COVID-19 floor spacer, one of those small reminders on a floor or a sidewalk to socially distance by staying 6 feet from people you don’t know or are not with.

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“Both kids and art are really undervalued right now,” said Lillia Schmidt, the museum’s community engagement intern. who had the idea for contest. “With this we wanted to empower kids and encourage the next generation of artists.”

Delaware Art Museum contest for kids to create socially distance floor spacers.
Kiley Farina

Robinson, a 7th grade student at P.S. DuPont Middle School, chose the themes of love and hope and intended for people to feel like they can get through whatever they can get through with that love and hope. 

She decided to her sister’s image was perfect for the art work.

“I’ve been spending a lot of time with my sister and family recently and seeing how my sister is so loving has given me hope that things can get better so she can have a normal childhood,” Robinson said.

“Her hands are in the shape of a heart to represent love,” Robinson said. The bird in the work represents care, affection and hope.

The children’s contest was an adjunct of the Museum’s Creatives Spacers Project. That program paid professional artists early in the pandemic to create spacers that would be offered to downtown businesses, partly to help the artists maintain an income. 

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The professional spacers can be found in the State Building in Wilmington, at the Delaware Community Foundation, Latin American Community Center, Greenbox Kitchen on Market, West Side Neighborhood House, Delaware Art Museum, River Road Swim Club and YWCAs across New Castle County.

The idea for the youth contest started with a brain-storming session with Schmidt and Jonathan Whitney, manager of performance programs and community engagement. 

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The youth program, which may spawn future contests, was opened to students ages 6 to 19. They were asked to create 12-by-12-inch 2D work that conveyed the messages of hope, love, social distancing or pandemic safety. 

While the museum originally planned to declare a few winners and give each a gift card to a local art supply store, it’s now declared all nine artists who entered winners.

Delaware Art Museum contest for kids to create socially distance floor spacers.
1st grader Kiley Farina created this drawing for the Delaware Art Museum’s Creative Spacers

One is Kiley Farina, who’s going into the first grade this year. She decided to depict about how everyone is connected. 

“Love is in our hearts,” Kiley said. “We’re all connected, no matter what color you are, boy or girl, glasses or no glasses.” 

She said that she felt proud about her art and being a part of an art contest.

“I really like drawing,” she said. “I usually draw every day.”

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Other winners were Azalea Banks, Reeves Ohlinger, Natty Moffett, Simone Moffett, Scarlett Burleigh, Natlie Weinberg and an artist named Karl, who didn’t give a last name.

Kiley’s’ father, Matt Farina, supported his daughter entering the contest. 

“I think it provides an outlet for the kids,” he said. “Kiley really seemed to press the idea that we were all connected, and we really pushed her to follow that idea.”

Art Business Entertainment Featured

Bad news. Good news. Hey, it’s Shakespeare. Whaddya expect?

Delaware Shakespeare community tour of 'Pericles'
‘Pericles’ was one of the community tours done by Delaware Shakespeare. It’s had to postpone this year’s production.

Delaware Shakespeare has postponed its fall community tour, but will have additional new programming, thanks in part to the four new associate artists it’s been able to hire with federal COVID bucks.

The postponement was a blow, because the company was planning a world premiere bilingual musical adaptation of “Twelfth Night.” It will now be rescheduled in the fall of 2021, when the world hopes its economy will not still be shipwrecked by a virus.

“While we’re disappointed not to be able to bring a full production to our Community Tour partners in 2020, this was the only decision that made sense given the vulnerable nature of many of our audiences,” said David Stradley, producing artistic director.

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“The tour producing model is defined by an up-close and personal connection between actor and audience. We bring eight-10 artists and 40-100 audience members into small spaces, where the actor is only a few feet away from the audience. This sort of performance style is not possible at the moment.”

Like so many others faced with the shocks created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the arts organization will drown its sorrows in food. And you’re welcome to join them for “Three Artists, Four Humors & Food!” The online Shakespeare Cooking Event will take place Aug. 29 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are pay-what-you-decide. For more info, go to

Newton Buchanan plays Benedick from "Much Ado About Nothing"
Newton Buchanan, here in the Soliloquy Stroll, is joining DelShakes.

The new hires

Delaware Shakespeare was able to hire the four associates thanks to a $5o,000 grant through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, via the National Endowment for the Arts.

The money was specifically designed to support staff salaries, fees for artists or contractual personnel, as well as facilities cost.

Newton Buchanan, Bi Jean Ngo and Emily Schuman, three theater artists with a combined 10 Del Shakes productions between them, will work with Stradley to develop new online and, potentially, small-scale, in-person programming for Del Shakes to offer to the community.

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Wilmington writer Gail Obenreder will join Del Shakes as an arts journalist-in-residence, documenting Del Shakes programming efforts in the time of COVID-19.

Bi, Emil and Newton will share their love of food, Shakespeare and Elizabethan history by sharing recipes that connect to various Shakespeare characters during the online cooking event.

Emily Schuman plays Philip th Bastard from "King John," complaining about being left behind in the power game
Emily Schuman, here in the Soliloquy Stroll, is joining DelShakes.


The community tour

The community tour brings professional Shakespeare to audiences who may not have easy access to professional arts experiences. The productions travel throughout the state and play in non-theatrical settings such as multipurpose rooms, cafeterias and gymnasiums and are scaled for those spaces, with live music, minimal sets and whatever lighting is available.

The company can tell hilarious stories about audience members who aren’t used to theater talking back to them and commenting on the action. The actors loved it.

The writing team of the new musical will use the additional year to further refine the script and score, which reimagines Shakespeare’s characters of Viola and Sebastian as Latinx immigrants whose shipwreck brings them ashore in Illyria.

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“The postponement of this production due to COVID-19 allows us more time to write music and finesse the adaptation,” said a statement issued by authors Liz Filios, Tanaquil Márquez and Robi Hager. “Because actors have already been cast, we will be able to write specifically for the performers who will play the roles.

“The result, we hope, will be a powerful performance for audiences from across the state of Delaware that unites arts and activism in the name of social justice.”

The Del Shakes associate artists will work to develop virtual programming to connect with audiences at many long-standing Community Tour partners to build on a four-year history of increasing access to high-quality arts experiences.

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Brandywine Festival of Arts canceled; organizers unsure how to keep artists, patrons safe

Brandywine Festival of the Arts
The Brandywine Festival of the Arts canceled its 2020 show. Photo by Larry Nagengast.

The 2020 Brandywine Festival of Arts has been canceled because organizers say they couldn’t be sure they could keep the artists, vendors and patrons safe from COVID-19.

“How do you take money at the gate while social distancing?” asked Barry Schlecker. “It’s impossible.”

The festival would have started in three weeks, on its traditional September weekend. It’s always the first weekend after Labor Day and is one of the community events that announces fall has begun.

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“How do I guarantee your safety, even with a fairly large footprint, if 5,000 to 8000 people show up on a pretty day like today?” Schlecker said Thursday morning.

Yes, he could spread the artists out.

“Even if we do, there’s no way to guarantee that social distance,” Schlecker said.

State guidelines require that people wear masks in public and stay 6 feet from others who are not in their party.

“People say they will do it, but it’s not going to happen,” Schlecker said.

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He says the festival is the city’s and maybe the state’s biggest two-day event, with about 15,000 people attending. It had been scheduled for Sept. 11-12.

Schlecker said he held out until the last minute hoping some treatment or vaccine might break.

Ultimately, he said, “I don’t want to produce an event that I wouldn’t go to, and ask my friends and family to go to it.”

Schlecker also said he never heard back from the city of Wilmington about his permit application to have the event in Brandywine State Park.

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“So that in itself was a problem,” Schlecker said. “Even if they had given us permission, I just didn’t feel comfortable.”

He’s not the only big traditional event to cancel. The Sea Witch Festival in Rehoboth Beach and the Middletown Peach Festival canceled, too.

The arts festival, which sees sales of about $250,000 between admission, artist sales and vendors, will continue in 2021, when it will celebrate its 60th anniversary, Schlecker said. Already, 125 artists have reserved a spot. The show usually has 200 artists.

“We’re planning on doing some big things,” Schlecker teased.

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First, though, he had to tell everybody the festival was off.

“I would say 90 percent of the artists that we contacted and told them we were not doing the show thanked me for not doing it, even though they are all hurting,” Schlecker said. “They thought it was a wise decision.”

One was Claymont painter Rick Phillips, a regular exhibitor who was the festival’s featured artist in 2017.

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“I’m glad it’s being canceled, because of the fear of getting sick,” Phillips said in a press release. “Being able to sell my works at the festival is great, but I really want to be there next year.”

Phillips said his sales at the 2019 festival were his best ever for a weekend event. 

Brandywine Festival of the Arts
The Brandywine Festival of the Arts says it’s planning a special 60th anniversary event in 2021. Photo by Larry Nagengast

Schlecker said one reason he was sorry to cancel was that many artists tell him that it’s their best weekend of the season, “so they depend on the income.”

They also tell him they make contacts who get in touch later and buy during the holidays.

Festival artists include painters, jewelry makers, potters, photographers, woodworkers and fabric artists, ranging from emerging artists to familiar faces. Recent exhibitors have come from at least 17 states, primarily in the mid-Atlantic region.

Schlecker said the festival generates another $250,000 in hotel room stays, restaurant meals and other spending.

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It’s grown beyond an art show into a full-fledged event at which people can stay all day, with local food vendors, children’s games, musical performances and even adopt-a-pet programs, he said.

The cancellation will be another blow to the Brandywine Zoo, he said. The Zoo always charges just $1 for adult admission that day, and he’s been told it’s the zoo’s biggest attendance every year.

For more information, go to or Brandywine Festival of the Arts on Facebook.