There are abundant art galleries and festivals in Sussex County, but one event is particularly interesting. If you missed the Lewes Artists Studio Tour this year, mark your calendar for 2023. Held in mid-September, the tour offers participants a glimpse at how artists work in their studios – typically their homes. Seeing where and how each artist lives reveals some of their persona and style.
This year, 18 artists displayed a range of talent including pottery, silk screens, watercolors, woodcuts, quilts, jewelry and more. Tour goers drive to studios in and around Lewes using a map showing each location including a listing of participating artists and a description of their work.
Watercolorist Ruth Kaufman and potter Jeff Watson say they both became interested in art as children. She considered art school but then decided on the sciences. Work interrupted her painting for years, but she took some evening classes in the 1990s and retired about 11 years ago. She now paints a lot.
Watson studied music education in college and was a high school music teacher early in his career. He stumbled across an artist cooperative, The Undertaking, in Occoquan, VA, signed up for a wheel throwing class and was instantly hooked. Pottery was a hobby while he was teaching. “Now, having settled in Lewes, DE, I am able to have a studio on our property in this beautiful town,” he says.
Kaufman teamed with Steve Rogers at his bungalow/studio overlooking the Lewes canal because her studio is too far away. Their styles complement each other.
Mixed media artist Kathy Brady displayed on the porch at Marilyn Nugent’s home/studio. She started art lessons in 2002, in Northern Virginia and Maryland, but is currently on a leave of absence.
Nugent has been a full-time artist since 1940. Her home is a funky, eclectic property built in the late 1700s. Her living room is her workspace where she meticulously creates elaborate beads made from Italian glass sticks and her kitchen is one of her two showrooms. She makes serving utensils combining silver and beads, and jewelry.
Watercolorist Leslie McDonald launched her art romance as a high school teacher sketching out scenes from Homer’s Odyssey for students. Apparently, they were unimpressed with her Trojan horse! After some classes she found that she loved the freedom of watching colors change with blending. “After twenty years, I am free to make mistakes”, she says. “It’s just paper! When it works – it’s exciting”!
Sarah Pavlik’s art quilts are dripping with color. Her stand-along studio in a backyard – that looks like Key West – creates the perfect environment for sewing machine mania and reams of brightly-colored fabrics.
Woodcut maestro Fred Dylla decided to be a physicist at 11 years old and went on to become the head of the American Institute of Physics from 2007 to 2015 when he retired. He discovered the niche art medium called white-line woodcut that involves carving scenes into a solid block of wood, applying watercolor to outlined areas, then laying rice paper over the block to transfer the image. The results are unique.
Nina Mickelson has been a stalwart member of the Lewes Artists for years. Her enormous and well-lit basement gallery and studio are the envy of many in the group and a perfect place to display her colorful and varied selection of work. Mickelson is also on the board of the Rehoboth Art League and has had one-women shows at the Art League of Ocean City, MD.
These artists seem to thrive on the aspect of collaboration and a genuine respect for each other. Brady may have summed up the impact that art has on them.
“When I begin to feel the world is in chaos and I’m stressed to the limit, I can go to my studio and find peace, relaxation and good mental health,” she says.
A variation of that theme likely applies to patrons as well.
By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist
Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.