Arts Brings Community Together, Promotes Economic Growth

Art enthusiasts enjoying their time at Angelucci Studios in downtown Milford.

By Kristen Gloss

Art is everywhere; people see it as they travel through their everyday lives.  Art is in our shops and parks, it is photographs and statues and anything created to be visually pleasing to the eyes, but what really is art and what does it mean? For Milford, the up and coming art town, it comes in many forms including woodworking, painting, culinary arts and dance, but it also serves a purpose to better the community.

“Art adds to the quality of life,” said Lee Nelson, Executive Director of Downtown Milford Inc. (DMI) “Milford has the orientation of focusing on art as an economic developer and a way to create a positive impact on the community.”

The Mispillion Art League (MAL) itself, which started in 2004, established 118 members in the first four months and have now reached close to 300 members.  Only approximately a quarter or the members call themselves artists though. Local artists such as Anne Jenkins, believe that Milford’s location allows for a lot of potential. Since the town is not right on the beach, it can become a destination itself.

“Art is changing the town in a positive way. I don’t think people realize how much art is in the community,” Jenkins said. “Art really does draw people in.”

In order to get a view of all the city has to offer, Anne Jenkins has been promoting the Milford Art Stroll, which is featured monthly in The Milford Review.  The Stroll suggests 10 locations of galleries, studios and some of the local architectural subjects of Milford’s art for people to see.

For those with desire to have personal interactions with art, MAL currently holds 36 classes a year to expand interest in art. In addition to the traditional paint and brush approach, there are several opportunities such as year-round culinary classes at Abbott’s Grill.

The community already has a lot of established art, however even more is planned in the near future; expanding it’s influence on the city. Marcia Read, an expressionist landscape painter, is opening her new studio in December, called Gallery 37: A Destination for Artful Living, on Walnut street in downtown Milford.  For her, art is a way of life. “I live, move and breath it, it centers me,” said Read. “You have to learn with art. It just helps your life and gives you pleasure when you look at it. I hope art serves as an outreach to bring people in – not just art collectors or art lovers.”

On a larger scale, woodworker and owner of Angelucci Gallery and Studio, Scott Angelucci has received support from the State of Delaware to create an interactive art center with a focus on education in Milford. The details are still not complete for a downtown art education center but is said to be developed on South West Front Street. The facility would encourage people to develop skills of fine craftsmanship, but also help them learn about the business aspect of artwork as well.  The business skills will help students learn how to effectively market their work in clay textiles, glass-working, printmaking and other types of fine crafts.

“Not only is art working to benefit the community economically, but it is creating a strong sense of culture in the area,” said Scott Angelucci. “They’re cutting out art in the schools and there is an opportunity to help round-out their education. There has been a strengthening in the community since the art league began. People have begun to really circulate and have gotten to know one another through art.”

Milford may be creating new art, however at the same time, it is also preserving and reviving the traditions of the city too. The city’s focus on art, the river and its history is what brings it all together. The Downtown Mural Project, depicting paintings of the Launching of the George May sailing ship and the Railroad Depot Junction in the early 1900‘s , is a prime example of art recapturing the historic significance that Milford holds in the State of Delaware.

“A lot of small towns in America lose that. In America, sometimes we knock things down and build anew,” said Jenkins. “But we have the victorian houses and the shipbuilding. It shows the town still cares. If art can help preserve the culture, all the more power to it.”

Art has moved Milford forward in becoming a cultural destination and continues to provide an economic driver for tourism. With little focus on the art community just several years ago, Milford has come quite a long way as the newest art town in Delaware.