SEDAST turns 15 this weekend

This weekend, after the Thanksgiving Day repast has been polished off, art lovers will be able to walk off their holiday meal through the galleries and studios of the area’s most noted artists. There’s even an opportunity to get a head-start on some local holiday shopping.

The 15th Annual SouthEastern Delaware Artists Studio Tour (SEDAST) will exhibit the works and work styles of regional artists in their work environments this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27 and 28. The self-guided tour allows guests to experience the area’s fine-art community at their own pace, as watercolorists, glass blowers, ceramicists and more again come together for one of Lower Delaware’s most highly anticipated art events of the year.

Newcomer Shelby Foxwell will debut her Sundown Bead Designs jewelry this year as the newest addition to SEDAST, with handcrafted wire-art jewelry that’s one-of-a-kind. Two artists who enjoyed success in their SEDAST start last year – fabric artist Jill Thomas and vibrant acrylic artist Jonathan Donato – are joining the group again this year, hoping to match the success of last year’s turnout.

Tour-goers who travel to studios and galleries this year will also get to meet with other area artists and crafters, including blacksmith and ironworker Keith Toms; pastel painter Kaura Hickman; watercolorist Aubre Duncan; detail painter Anne Hanna; plein air artist Tara Funk Grim; glass sculptor Justin Cavagnaro; artist and local gallery owner Ellen Rice; watercolor, pastel and oil artist and photographer Jennifer Carter.

Also participating this year are master wood-turner Tom Frey; seascape and local scene painter Barbara Deitrick; glassblower Phillip Adkins; ceramic artist Kim Doughty; beach folk artist Ralph Semsker; pastel artist Theresa D. Richard; and metalworker Grant Massey. (Artists Damon Pla and Amy Kaufman have both had to cancel their appearances in the tour this year, due to family issues. But one of Pla’s works will be shown at Cavagnaro’s studio and will be among the items raffled off during the tour.)

Originally started as a “grassroots” effort by 13 local artists and artisans, SEDAST was created a decade and a half ago in hopes of introducing the public to the wide range of talent that had developed in the art community of Southeastern Delaware. By 2000, the growing popularity of the event with tour-goers and participating artists gave the event a second focus: serving as a way to give back to the next generation of budding artists and crafters through scholastic opportunities.

SEDAST’s “Art in the Hat” raffle adds further opportunities for tour-goers to possess original pieces from the tour, as participating artists each contribute some of their work. A full 100 percent of the funds raised from raffle-ticket sales are donated back to art departments of schools within the Indian River School District.

Over the years, SEDAST has made donations to Frankford and Phillip. C. Showell elementary schools, as well as to Sussex Central and Indian River high schools, allowing for additional supplies and equipment to be purchased for art students in the schools. Since the raffle began, more than $29,000 has been raised and contributed to these programs, and that total is expected to top the $30,000 mark this year.

Hickman, one of the original SEDAST artists, is hoping for another great turnout for this weekend’s show.

“It seems like every year we have new people who come out for the tour and new artists participating,” she said, “so it’s always very exciting.”

Her raffle piece this year, titled “July, Bethany Beach,” is a framed, limited-edition reproduction of a work depicting a wood-shingle beach home located behind the Addy Sea.

“Every year, in the month of July, this house has beautiful hydrangea and daylilies, and I really wanted to capture that,” she said.

This year, Hickman has also been working on reflections from a trip to Prague, in the Czech Republic, in which she mixes opaque watercolors with broad pastels.

Since the first SEDAST, Hickman and others have watched the event grow, developing into one of lower Delaware’s most popular events.

“It’s been phenomenal,” she said. “I remember the first year, when we ran off flyers, and now, we’re more sophisticated in the way we send out information and our Web site. We can contact more people, and everyone can find out much quicker.”

As for the raffle that benefits the area schools and the next generations of artists, “It’s really the best thing we could possibly do,” she said.

SEDAST has not only recognized the artists in the area who have made a success out of their craft, but it has helped draw more talented painters and sculptors to the area.

“When we first started,” Hickman said, “there weren’t many artists making a living around here. Then, more and more started moving into the area. You never know. By next year, we could get a couple new people that the area’s never seen.”

SEDAST will run this Friday and Saturday, Nov. 27 and 28, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. each day. Tickets for the “Art in the Hat” raffle will be available at the studios along the tour and cost $10 each, or $25 for three. Tickets must be purchased by 4 p.m. on Saturday, as the drawings will follow soon after.

For more information on the tour, including a glimpse of the raffle items, participating artist information and a map for the self-guided tour, visit the Web site at