On Saturday, Sept. 6, downtown Bethany Beach will once again be transformed into a colorful spectacle of artistic beauty and talent. More than 130 fine artists and crafters will pour onto the boardwalk, transforming the ocean-set backdrop into a gallery of splendor for the 30th Annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Arts Festival, presented by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce. With a growing number of participants and art enthusiasts each year, the end-of-the-summer event has become a Delaware tradition for people of all ages.
Those who stop by can take in pieces from painters and crafters who have made their names a staple in the area, such as Aubré Duncan, Laura Hickman and Ralph Semsker. Other returning area artists, such John Donato, Theresa Dominique Richard, Abraxus and Justin Cavagnaro, will be gracing the all-day event, too.
Still, the boardwalk festival holds the opportunity for others to expose their talent, as artists from all around make a debut appearance.
Abingdon, Md., resident Jo Houtz will be showing off her “crushed paper” paintings, featuring a traditional oriental art form and ancient depictions.
“It will be my first time at the festival,” she said, “and I’m really looking forward to it. My style is different than most artists when it comes to my subject matter.”
The crushed paper paintings range from “The Ancients” series, a collection of works comparable to cave paintings, to depictions of serene birds and tranquil flowers.
”I don’t paint any one thing,” Houtz said. Her entry into work with crushed paper came at the recommendation of a mentor, roughly six years ago. “I hit a dead zone in my work,” she said, “like a writer’s block. Then an instructor of mine introduced me to this Masa paper, and I never looked back. It’s a world of difference. It really makes you feel good when it works out.” Her medium of choice has ranged from watercolors to pencil to ink.
Art became a second career for Houtz when she picked it up almost two decades ago. After retiring as an employee of the federal government, she turned to painting, but she soon realized it was much more than a hobby.
“I understood that it was difficult to make a living off of painting,” she said, “but art has become part of my life.”
Houtz herself is no stranger to art shows and festivals, as her talent has given her the opportunity to show off her work in fairs throughout Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina and Virginia. Her work has been displayed in one-person shows and regional exhibitions of corporate and private collections. Houtz has even associated herself with groups including the Baltimore and Delaware Watercolor societies, the Rehoboth Art League, and several others.
She describes her creations as “eclectic,” rather than contemporary or abstract, although that doesn’t mean she doesn’t possess an appreciation for all forms of art.
“I love going to these types of shows,” she said. “It’s not uncommon for me to walk up to someone and see what people pick. I enjoy hearing what people have to say about different art. I get a feel for what people like, and even though there are styles I don’t paint, myself, I still have a lot of respect for what other artists do.”
Metal artist Rob Glebe is another talented artist bringing his creations to the boardwalk show. For more than two years, Glebe has followed his 12-year yacht-service career with full-time work in metal. Working in cabinetry, too, he developed his handiwork, exploring his creative side for nearly a decade. Mild steel, hammered and TIG (tungsten inert gas)-welded together, has allowed Glebe to venture into the realm of wall art, masks, bowls, vases and decorative orbs. His vessels are designed to replicate classic pottery shapes, reflecting his love for patterns and texture.
“I believe my palate is endless and design possibilities are infinite,” he noted. “My wife and I have been collecting art for a while now, and I have a great appreciation for everything that’s out there,” he added.
That appreciation has had the chance to develop through Glebe’s own exposure to art at the shows at which he has displayed and sold his own artistic works. And that’s just one of the benefits of traveling to art festivals and shows, he said.
“I’ve traveled across the country to shows, and I’m starting to get a feel for this type of market,” said Glebe. “These shows are a good way to expand your network, and really help me with sales. I find a lot of times, even after the [festivals], people will visit my Web site and contact me about my work days later.”
The Bethany Beach Boardwalk Art Festival will take place in Bethany Beach from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 6. Admission is free, with live entertainment and a silent auction available for those in attendance. More than 130 artists will exhibit their work along the length of the boardwalk and expanded street-festival areas at Second Street, Garfield Parkway and Parkwood Street.
“We’re really excited about the event this year,” said Deserie Lawrence, who is the new sales, events and marketing manager of the Chamber.
Though this is her first time working with the festival, she’s wasted no time preparing the extravaganza.
“From what I’ve heard, the past shows have been nothing but a great experience for the Chamber, for the artists and for everyone who stops by. We have a lot of new people this year, and we added streets to it,” she noted. “We’re trying to change it up but not take away from what it does for the community.”
Artist participation in the festival increases each year as word about the event spreads.
“All the artists who enter the festival are really excited,” said Lawrence.
An online application for the 2008 show helped stretch opportunities and provide exposure for more artists and crafters throughout the region.
“It ought to be a great time,” Lawrence added. “From what the artists have said to me, this is ‘the’ show to get into.”
For more information about the 30th Annual Bethany Beach Boardwalk Art Festival, including a list of participating artists, visit www.bethany-fenwick.org online or call (302) 539-2100. For information about Jo Houtz and her paintings, visit her Web site at johoutz.com. For more on Rob Glebe and his metalworks, visit www.robglebedesign.com.