During the month of February the Mispillion Art League (MAL), located at 5 N Walnut Street in downtown Milford, is hosting A Celebration of Black Artists, featuring the work of African American artists and artisans from the surrounding area. MAL members Donna Blakey and Tony Burton organized the gallery which held its Opening Reception on February 1.
“It was exciting to walk into the opening reception and see the place filled with people,” stated Donna Blakey, organizer of the gallery. “I think it is a statement that there is a lot of African American art out there and it needs to be experienced.”
On Thursday, February 21 Donna and her parents Donald and Delores Blakey will host a presentation featuring the history of African American music and art in Delaware at the Mispillion Art League. Donald Blakey, State Representative in Dover, and Delores Blakey, a singer, raised Donna in a house that was always full of culture as the family continually educated themselves through music, theatre and visiting museums.
Starting the evening, Donna will discuss the life or renowned black artist Edward Loper Sr., a native Delawarean that overcame much adversity to become one of Delaware’s most influential black artist. A self-taught painter, Edward had over seventy years of artistic expression before dying at the age of 95 in 2011. Being born on the East side of Wilmington in a poor black neighborhood during segregation, Loper is seen by many as rising above almost impossible odds to become a successful artist. He became the first African American to have a painting accepted at the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts in 1937 and has been an inspiration to artists of all races.
“It will be an educational and enlightening experience, celebrating Loper’s life,” commented Ms. Blakey. “Edward Loper is renowned for his work in New Castle County as one of the most inspirational black artist in Delaware.”
Following this discussion, Donald and Delores will present a musical review of popular black music, which brought together artists, singers, musicians and composer, both black and white, at a unique place called the Rosedale Beach Hotel and Resort, in Millsboro Delaware. According to the Delaware Public Archives, the hotel and resort operated from the early 1900s to the 1970s. After performing in Lewes and Rehoboth for crowds of white audiences during segregation, music legends like Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin played at the Rosedale Beach Resort for people of all colors. No longer physically at the location in Millsboro, the rich history of this hotel only lives on through historical records and accounts of those that experienced it themselves.
“The Rosdale Hotel was a really unique place where people of all colors could come and enjoy artists that would become the legends of music,” commented Ms. Blakey. Selected songs from the legendary artists that played at the Rosdale Hotel will be performed by Donald and Delores Blakey in front of the Mispillion Art League crowd.
The MAL Third Thursday Presentation will be held on Thursday, February 21 from 6:30 to 8pm in the main gallery on 5 N Walnut Street. The program is open to the public and made possible, in part, by a grant from the Delaware Division of Arts. For more information on A Celebration of Black Artists gallery or the Third Thursday presentation on Black Artists, Music and History contact the Mispillion Art League at 302-430-7647.