Artists Sought For Public ART Project

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DMI Director Lee Nelson holding an unfinished Augusta sculpture to be used in the downtown ART project.
DMI Director Lee Nelson holding an unfinished Augusta sculpture to be used in the downtown ART project.

Downtown Milford Inc. is seeking artists for its newest public art project which will highlight Milford’s long history with the boat-building industry. The Art on the Riverwalk Tour (ART) project is a 3-year public art project, partially funded by grants from the Delaware Division of the Arts and the Milford Lions Club, featuring 4-foot sculptures of the classic yacht ‘Augusta’, built by Milford’s Vineyard Boat Yard in 1927. Local artists will be asked to design the boats that will be on permanent display in 18 locations throughout downtown Milford.

Downtown Milford Inc. (DMI) Director Lee Nelson drafted the idea from previous public art projects he oversaw while working for a main street program in Union Point, Georgia. Using painted sculptures of locomotives to represent the city’s historic ties with the railroad, Nelson decided that the Augusta yacht was a strong symbol of Milford’s history as a river town.

Once having seven shipyards in commission, Milford was built around the shipping and timber industries. Founded by Wilson Marvel Vinyard in 1886, the Vinyard Shipyard is the only preserved shipyard on The Mispillion River. The shipyard was purchased in 1996 by Joan and Sudler Lofland who began restoring the shipyard as well as some of the Vinyard vessels, including the Kismet, the Vignette, and the Augusta. The most popular of the three yachts, the Augusta was given a proper launch by the Loflands and the Milford community on June 12, 2010.

“This is part of our beautification of downtown and it highlights our history,” Lee Nelson, DMI’s Executive Director, said. “To me the Augusta really symbolizes what we are trying to accomplish. A piece of Milford history that was found and restored, what a symbol for our town to connect the past with the future.”

The ART project is the perfect example of the revitalization and rebranding of the town as “River Town. Art Town. Home Town” Nelson explained. The idea is to have Kent and Sussex artists decorate each vessel in the theme of “River Town. Art Town. HomeTown”. Each artist must submit their design ideas to a jury to ensure the project projects a historic and tasteful image of the town. Each artist awarded a sculpture to decorate/paint will work with high school art students as a mentor throughout the process. The artists will be paid $600 per sculpture, plus materials.

Over 3 years, 18 painted vessels will be placed at strategic locations around downtown Milford and the Mispillion Riverwalk to encourage economic development. Once brought to the downtown area by the public works of art, Nelson expects that individuals will experience the boutiques, galleries and restaurants in the area.

“Art is a part of any communities identity and culture but also serves as an economic driver,” commented Nelson. “The idea behind the project is economic development , if you can get people to visit downtown for one reason they will find another reason to stay.”

All artists living or working in Kent and Sussex Counties are invited to apply to be part of the ART project by following the guidelines and timetable put forth on DMI’s website. For more information about the public Art on the Riverwalk Tour project contact Lee Nelson at (302)839-1190, by e-mail Director@DowntownMilford.org or visit http://downtownmilford.org under the tab “ART Project”.