|The NWAA invited viewers to an open workspace.
Perhaps, like me, you've always thought of Wilmington as Philly's little sibling: why go there when you've got your own big city? A few recent trips across the border, however, helped me realize what I've been missingparticularly when it comes to the arts scene.
Wilmington's slogan is "a place to be somebody." The city is just the right size to live up to the phrase: it's small enough to give its artists a voice and large enough to give them an audience. This weekend I headed to Wilmington's Art Loop
, the city's version of First Friday. Within a few blocks of each other were an impressive number of galleries, including the Delaware College of Art and Design
, the live-in Shipley Lofts
, and the New Wilmington Art Association
. The latter two organizations have emerged in just the past few years. Many of the artists greeting visitors at the galleries knew each other well. It was clearly a tight-knit community, but not an insular one: a wide variety of people, from first-time visitors to art connoisseurs, were inspecting the pieces on display. The atmosphere was welcoming and unpretentious.
My first stop was Shipley Lofts (right), which provides living, working, and exhibition spaces for artists. Its Chris White gallery hosted works by Kevin Bielicki, whose work focused on wood. Many of his pieces featured painted tiles whose steel frames were part of the work; also on display were sculptures including Kayak
, a curvy wooden frame with burlap stretched across it. In the midst of the exhibit was a release party for local musicians' CDs.
Next I visited the New Wilmington Art Association, which gave visitors a chance to see artists' work in progress. In one corner stood a horse constructed of strip lights spread with colored cloth; in another was an interactive electronic piece. It called on viewers to stand on a platform which operated a wheel attached to a number of strings. The strings dipped weights into cups filled with liquid at various heights across the walls (the video here
makes it clearer). Another piece featured painted Tyveka material made by Wilmington's own DuPont. The open-studio space, said artist Jane Chesson, provides "the opportunity to do something I couldn't do elsewhere."
Directly across the street was a reception for the annual student exhibition at the Delaware College of Art and Design. The quality of the student work hereand its sheer volumewas impressive. On display was two-dimensional art, including drawing, painting, photography typography, cartoons, housing designs; three-dimensional pieces, including sculptures made of marble, wood, and cardboard; video, animation, and more. The large gallery was so packed with artwork that I at first assumed the water cooler was part of the exhibit.
I ended my night at the Film Brothers' Co-Op, just down the street, which was hosting an after-party with an incredible amount of free food: gourmet pizzas appeared to keep spontaneously spawning on the tables. I'd seen a lot without paying a centbut it was only a fraction of the works on show.