There’s a rising tide in Southern Delaware and not just at its famous beaches. The region is awash with arts, entertainment, and a splash of magic. Dip your toes in Rehoboth Beach culture, but also explore the smaller towns inland, where exciting discoveries can be made year-round.
Visual arts galore
The granddaddy of the local cultural scene is the 77-year-old arts center run by the Rehoboth Art League in Henlopen Acres. “Some call it a little sanctuary,” says the league’s Sheila Bravo of the 3.5-acre wooded campus, featuring a 1743 homestead, gardens, galleries, and studios. The 1,000-member league hosts many exhibitions, demonstrations, classes, and events. A highlight is the annual Outdoor Show, scheduled for Aug. 8–9 and Aug. 15–16 this year.
In Rehoboth Beach, a cottage housing Heidi Lowe Gallery is deceptively small. Lowe not only sells her own custom art jewelry, but carries work by international artists whom, she says, are “pushing the boundaries of jewelry making” in terms of diverse materials and formats. Adorned with one of her own necklaces — “When you’re wearing it you want to rock it,” she quips — Lowe says the gallery attracts customers looking for unique items, such as specially designed wedding rings.
Mosaic, a Rehoboth Beach gallery collective, sponsors a popular Second Saturday art walk.
Former National Geographic photographer Kevin Fleming sells vivid portraits of wildlife and nature scenes at his gallery in Rehoboth. He jokes that he prefers photographing animals to people because “they don’t talk back.”
Another nature aficionado is an artist known only as Abraxas. His realistic landscapes, seascapes, and portraits are available at Abraxas Studio of Art in Lewes. Also in Lewes is the Peninsula Gallery, where works by 25 local and regional artists are exhibited, and Preservation Forge, where a blacksmith fashions crafts from iron. History lovers can see art and artifacts in the Lewes Historical Society’s complex of historic buildings.
Buy paintings, jewelry, pottery, and wood or woven items at Gallery One in Ocean View, a cooperative of 15 artists.
Milford is using the arts as a way of revitalizing economic development and the quality of life, according to town officials. Take the self-guided Art on the Riverwalk Tour to see 12 decorated boat sculptures. The Millispon Art League in Milford hosts festivals, exhibitions, and classes. Retired teacher Marcia Reed saw the potential in Milford and opened Gallery 37 to sell fine art, crafts, furniture, sculpture, ceramics, and wearable art by 25 local and national artists.
“I wanted to be part of the crest of something happening,” she says.
At Seaford, the Nanticoke River Arts Council represents 50 local artists offering paintings, glass art, jewelry, wood turnings, pottery, and hand-painted porcelain.
Places to purchase all manner of art include the Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival in September and the Southeastern Delaware Artists’ Studio Tour in November.
Music and theater happenings
With top musicians such as Boney James and Patti Austin taking the stage, the Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival is a big draw each fall. Going into its 26th season, this year’s event is scheduled for Oct. 15–18.
Another key venue is Freeman Stage at Bayside, an open-air stage where stars including Wynton Marsalis and The Beach Boys have performed.
Those who love classical music can find it through Coastal Concerts in Lewes, which hosts soloists and ensembles.
The Music School of Delaware presents more than 100 performances a year in Sussex and Kent counties.
For a night out on the town with dinner and live music, check out The Cellar Door or the Blue Moon in Rehoboth Beach.
The 16 Mile Brewery in Georgetown offers craft beer and acoustic music on weekends.
Musicians such as Keith Mack and Paul Cullen also enliven the regional music scene. Mack has toured with Joe Cocker and Cyndi Lauper. Cullen, who played guitar with Bad Company, cooks up memorable evenings at private homes with Italian food, wines, and music.
For a touch of nostalgia, watch a classic or first-run film at the 66-year-old Clayton Theatre in Dagsboro, Delaware’s only single-screen theater. Over five days in November, the Rehoboth Beach Independent Film Festival showcases American and international films.
See dramas and musicals at the intimate Clear Space Theatre in Rehoboth Beach, which has its own acting company.
The Premier Centre for the Arts has refurbished the Milton Theatre for performances and cabaret, and the Second Street Players offer community theater in Milford.
And, for that splash of magic, be prepared to be amazed by Rich Bloch at the Dickens Parlour Theatre in Millville and discover what’s behind the secret bookcase.
For more information
Southern Delaware Tourism: visitsoutherndelaware.com