On Saturday, September 14 at the Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover, a special reception was held for winners of the Delaware Division of the Arts (DDA) 2013 Fellowship Awards. Celebrating visual, literary and performing arts across the state, Milford artists Anne Jenkins and Teresa Clifton were recognized among fifteen other Delaware artists at the event.
Last year, some 85 applicants submitted their work to the Delaware Division of the Arts to be judged by arts professionals from around the country. The grants were created to allow artists to pursue advanced training, purchase equipment and materials or fulfill other needs that allow them to advance their careers. Artist Anne Jenkins was awarded an Established Professional grant with a $6,000 award to help her continue promoting visual art. Jenkins’ installation galley, titled The Underground Railroad, was on public display at the Biggs Museum throughout the summer and was featured during the special reception.
Jenkins, a British citizen, was born and raised in South Africa. She has lived in six European countries and traveled the world extensively before settling in the United States. Anne is a self-taught artist and her acrylics and watercolors can be found in many private collections throughout Europe, Japan, South Africa, Canada, and the United States. Moving to the Milford community with husband Lee Nelson in 2011, Anne has become very active in promoting the arts in downtown Milford and around Kent and Sussex Counties. She opened Anne Jenkins Art Gallery in that same year and has held several galleries showcasing multiple local artists in Milford.
Jenkins used the grant to develop a new gallery that follows the path that slaves took from their homeland, through being sold at market and working against their will, to their journey to freedom by the way of the Underground Railroad.
“I know this is a very delicate subject. We are inclined to rewrite or forget history but it must be faced,” commented Jenkins. “I hope that people will learn from this symbolic depiction of a sad part of history that ends with hope.”
The Underground Railroad installation displays seven burlap panels, an ethnic fabric commonly used in South Africa. The first panel starts with a dark colored burlap symbolizing the horror of slavery, and then the panels lighten as the journey takes on more hope. The first three panels are weighted by chain to symbolize the enslavement of man and the next three are weighted with stone as the journey continues. The final panel is not weighted but flies free to symbolize reaching freedom. Each painting on the panels shows the progression – from the start of the journey when Africans were torn from their homes and taken across the ocean, to the fear of heading into the unknown and the trust needed to do so, to the final panel depicting the start of their freedom.
Anne was moved by the emotion displayed by art patrons at the Biggs Museum special reception as they walked through her gallery.
“As I took people through the gallery I could see that for many it was a powerful experience,” stated Jenkins. “Each time I walked a group through, someone would cry, which I took as an incredible compliment. I wanted people to take with them a sense of humility, we need to treat each other better. If one person has that powerful experience I think it has achieved its purpose.”
Jenkins admits that at times the paintings were difficult and emotional as she followed a slave’s journey through the Underground Railroad. The hardest painting for Anne to create was a depiction of an African family standing on a box at the slave market being sold to the highest bidder.
“That piece was the hardest one to paint,” Anne commented, referring to the painting of the slave market. “Not only is it an emotional subject but as I began painting the family I felt as if I was putting them on the block myself to be sold.”
In support of Jenkins’ installation gallery, a large crowd from Milford visited the gallery at the Biggs Museum’s special reception in Dover. Anne is grateful for the grant and explains that it allowed her the opportunity to create an installation gallery that she may not have otherwise created.
“I would not have been able to do this installation without the grant,” commented Jenkins. “An installation like this takes a lot of resources, time and is very difficult to do. I am honored to be given the opportunity and feel it was a real blessing.”
Author Teresa Clifton of Milford was also recognized during the special reception as she received an Emerging Professional grant with a $3,000 award. Terri Clifton, a writer since she was a teenager, is a Delaware native who lives near Prime Hook Wildlife Refuge. Her most known novel, A Random Soldier, was written by Terri after her son was killed by a mortar attack in Iraq while he was serving as a United States Marine. The Individual Artist Fellowship grant was awarded to Terri for her adult fiction novel Red Balloon.
Clifton will be hosting An Evening of Words associated with the DDA award at The Gallery at Eastwind on Saturday, October 5 at 6:30pm. Celebrating her accomplishment in Fiction-Literature Fellowship, Teresa will perform a public reading of her novel Red Balloon that night. The gallery is located at 9397 Cods Road In Milford as the performance is open to the public.