Ellen Rice Gallery celebrates 10 years by giving back

A decade has passed since Ellen Rice started up her gallery along Route 26 in Ocean View, and there’s no doubt that her painting has touched thousands and will continue to do so for generations to come. To celebrate her 10th anniversary, she is giving back to friends and customers who have helped transform her cozy gallery into a prominent icon in the local art scene.

Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton: Ellen Rice stands beside her latest installment in ‘The Strength of Woman’ series, which will be featured at the galleries 10th anniversary celebration on July 1.Coastal Point • Ryan Saxton
Ellen Rice stands beside her latest installment in ‘The Strength of Woman’ series, which will be featured at the galleries 10th anniversary celebration on July 1.

During this 2009 summer season, The Ellen Rice Gallery will offer “10 Years of Art, 10 Weeks of Prizes,” in which a purchase of $20 or more at the gallery enters customers into a drawing for free prizes. These prizes range from gift certificates and Ellen Rice mini and full gicleés, nightlights and dry-erase boards to the extensive collection of American hand-made jewelry found every day at the gallery.

The drawings are set for every Wednesday at noon, and customers do not have to be present to win. To enter, customers just fill out a ticket after making a qualifying purchase. In addition to the weekly prizes, qualifying entrants will have a chance at the end-of-season Labor Day weekend grand prize of an original framed oil painting by Rice.

“The most important thing earned I’ve learned in 10 years,” Rice said this week, “is you have to stay true to yourself and paint what’s in your heart. That’s what people respond to.”

Her love for tranquil beaches, local wildlife and breathtaking watersheds have been exemplified onto canvases, leading to her recognition as one of Delaware’s top 10 most collected artists, according to Delaware Beach Life magazine.

“There has been a large demand for my original works,” she said, “and I’ve learned that as long as I’m true to myself, they’ll often sell before they’re finished. When I put my heart into it, other hearts respond to it.”

Rice did not initially receive the support that many artists have been accustomed to when she first started nearly 40 years ago.

“It was a battle for me,” she said, “but my customers and friends have given me my confidence.”

Turning to the retail side of the trade wasn’t a simple task, either.

“It’s hard for artists to be gallery owners,” she said. “As an artist, you’re not in a business mentality. You don’t think that way. Over the years, I’ve learned to run on faith, especially in this economy.”

Her talent, though, has not gone unnoticed, as her “Treasure Beaches of the Mid-Atlantic” gained national bestseller status in the mid 1990’s, prompting the opening of the Ellen Rice Gallery in 1999. She accepts several commissions each year and often returns to portraits, which helped her earn a living in the 1970s; but it’s the inspiration from natural splendors that fuel her passion.

“I’m busier than I have ever been in my life,” she said. “In fact, I’m painting a lot more.”

Rice puts herself into the community as a member of several local art organizations, including the SouthEastern Delaware Artist’s Studio Tour (SEDAST). Her painting “Silent Sentinel” was the official fundraising art for the Delaware Seashore Preservation Foundation Tower #3 Restoration Project, with 10 percent of all print sales going directly to restore the World War II observation tower, depicted in the painting. At the end of last month, she hosted the “Hope” event for the Justin W. Jennings Foundation, contributing posters, donating sales from her gallery and raffling off original prizes.

“Charity is behind a lot of my work,” said Rice. “With art, everything you create should contribute in some way, not just be a pretty picture.”

With the opening of her gallery a decade ago, she was able to better share her talent and give back.

“The gallery gives me the opportunity to meet more people who collect my work,” she said. “I opened it because, at the time, there weren’t a lot of art galleries around here. I wanted to display my work in an atmosphere that was peaceful and inviting. It’s a nice place for people to enjoy their time and find peace at their leisure.”

She has welcomed all types of art from contributing American hand-made crafters, as well, ranging from ornaments and jewelry to pottery and Leaf Leather handbags.

“I’ve learned that if you really get along with someone,” she noted, “their work appeals to you.”

A wide variety of arts and crafts can be found at the gallery, ranging in price from $3 to thousands of dollars. At any given time, customers can walk in and find 30 to 50 items priced at less than $50. Patrons can also stop in during the week to see developing progress on different works.

“It gives people the chance to see a variety of paintings at different stages,” said Rice, who is available at the gallery on Saturdays from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. and on Wednesdays from 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. to speak with customers and sign prints.

The gallery will also be hosting a special 10th Anniversary event on Wednesday, July 1, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., with live music from John Pollard and local catering. At the event, Rice will be presenting the newest addition to her popular “Strength of Woman” series.

For more information about Ellen Rice and her gallery, visit www.ellenrice.com, or call (302) 539-3405. The public can also sign up online to receive notices of upcoming events.

Pick up future issues of the Coastal Point for additional coverage of The Ellen Rice Gallery and its 10th anniversary celebration.