Art organizations backing proposed art center

Last week’s meeting between representatives from various state-wide art organizations and Arts Consulting Group mustered high hopes for the Joshua M. Freeman Center for the Arts in the Bayside community in Selbyville. Dozens were in attendance, including artists, performers and enthusiasts.
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The Gallery One crew, above, as well as the Watercolor Society, below, are backing the proposal for the Joshua M. Freeman Center for the Arts, proposed to be built in the Bayside community in Selbyville.

Among the top concerns for many locals active in the area art scene were transportation and a central location. Similarly, those representing Delaware organizations also have their heads held high with the thought of the art center coming to southern Sussex County.

“Art accounts for the third-largest occupational group of people in the area,” said Jeanne Mueller, member of the Bethany Beach Watercolor Society and Ocean View-based Gallery One. “This center would be a wonderful thing for all kinds of art. It could really open up a whole new avenue for everyone, especially the young people in this area. It’s a win-win.”

The watercolor society, which has previously held shows and meetings at the South Coastal Library in Bethany Beach, has since been forced to find other locations, due to current construction.

“We’ve lost our home,” said Mueller, “and there’s nowhere for most organizations to go.”

Not only would the new center provide a permanent location for these groups to meet and share their passion, but Mueller said she anticipates it expanding the area’s appreciation for art.

“The talent is here,” she said, “but it’s been hard for people to break out. That’s how Gallery One finally started. I’m 100 percent behind this project.”

Likewise, Susan Salkin, deputy director with the Delaware Division of the Arts, is looking forward to the potential influences such a facility can have on the community.

“Our purpose here has always been to nurture and support the community,” Salkin said. “It’s the community members who are going to benefit the most from this.”
arts 1: The Gallery One crew, above, as well as the Watercolor Society, below, are backing the proposal for the Joshua M. Freeman Center for the Arts, proposed to be built in the Bayside community in Selbyville.Coastal Point • FILE PHOTOS
Salkin, who was in attendance at last Monday’s meeting, was impressed with the turnout and the discussion.

“The meeting gave everyone assembled the opportunity to gather information and provide input for the art consultants and the Freeman Foundation,” she said. “I think they still have to feel some things out, but there is definitely a lot of interest.”

A larger, more accommodating venue was one of the more attractive qualities of the art center for Rehoboth Beach Film Society Executive Director Sue Early.

“Last year, we had 62 screening sellouts,” she said, “and finding a venue with a larger seating capacity is not easy.”

Most times, the screenings have been held in an upstairs room above Movies at Midway, which has accommodated the group but is hardly ideal, since the film society has seen close to 1,400 members with an ever-growing base. Members had spent nearly two months entertaining the idea of where to show the society’s psychoanalytic film series before finally agreeing on a church.

“We need to maximize the utilization of this facility,” Early said. “We need this to be accessible to everyone.”

Lois Ash, the Milford branch director of the Delaware Music School, has her hopes set on an alternative function of the facility.

“We’re primarily concerned with teaching lessons here,” she said. “The center could be a great off-site location to hold more educational courses. It’d be nice if we could get an ensemble room and teaching facilities.”

Currently, the Delaware Music School holds private lessons, as well as early developmental music programs and the recently added “Kindermusic.”

“This facility would allow us to offer even more classes,” Ash said. “The interest is here. It’s always great to see the arts strengthening in a new location.”