Guerke Joins Public Art Movement

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1Five local artists have been selected for Phase 2 of Milford’s community art project, Art on the Riverwalk Tour (ART),to begin designing and painting six, four-foot sculptures to be placed in downtown Milford. The ART project began last year as six sculptures depicting the classic yacht Augusta were designed and created by four local artists and displayed permanently along the Mispillion River.

The classic yacht Augusta that was built at the Vinyard Shipyard in Milford, links the town’s historical beginnings of shipbuilding to the modern attraction of the Riverwalk along the Mispillion River. The committee overseeing the Art on the Riverwalk Tour (ART) project has named local Kent and Sussex artists, Linda Chatfield, Eddie Filemyr, Gwen Guerke, Bill Walton and Marcia Reed to take part in Phase 2 of the public art project.

Selected artist Gwen Guerke is a fifth generation Milfordian. Attending all twelve years in the Milford School District, Guerke graduated from Milford High School in 1965, the same year that the first African Americans graduated from the school including Charles Hammond, Joseph Clark and Greg Showell. In 1989 Gwen was asked to work for the Delaware State News as a Features Editor where she began to report on human interest stories in lower Delaware. In 1993 the famous Tell Gwen column was started, rising quickly in popularity as she began to work between several local papers including The Milford Chronicle. Regardless of the name of the weekly edition on the front page, Gwen enjoyed meeting local people from around Kent and Sussex Counties.

Drawing on her experience as a journalist and her love of Milford history, Gwen created a proposal for the sculpture design that uses historic newspaper articles, advertising copy and memorabilia from the original shipyards on the Mispillion River. With the help of her friend and owner of the restored Vinyard Shipyard, Joan Lofland, Gwen printed copies of the newspaper materials, stained them with walnut ink to create an old fashioned look and placed the papers on the sculpture in an aesthetic fashion.

“The boat certainly reflects the actual history of the shipyards and The Augusta because the newspapers chronicled the events,” commented Guerk. “Unless those papers were preserved by people like Joan and Sudler Lofland that history may not still be here.”

Placed on the sculptures are several replicas of shipyard memorabilia including a workmen’s badge and a handwritten ledger from one of the seven shipbuilding businesses. Before being placed on the Riverwalk for permanent display, the boat will receive multiple layers of varnish to protect the newspaper from the outside elements. An artist herself, Gwen is excited to be a part of this project that will be placed on the Mispillion Riverwalk for future generations to enjoy.

“I personally like the concept of public art and to be a part of it is an honor,” commented Guerke.

The second phase of the Art on the Riverwalk Tour is expected to be completed and displayed permanently around town during early summer, joining the original six already in place. For more info on the project, individuals can contact Lee Nelson, Director of Downtown Milford Inc., at (302)839-1190, Director@DowntownMilford.org or visit http://downtownmilford.org.