"Our office has a very visible location on Route 13, and visitors and business people are in and out all day long," said Cindy Small, Executive Director of Kent County Tourism. "Now we can showcase local artists' work to this clientele."
The gallery opened last week with six regional artists but has already expanded to include three more. More importantly, people are already making it a point to see the exhibit.
"We actually had some folks that came down from the northern part of the state just to look," Small said. "Plus, we've already sold one item and there's talk of more purchases, too."
The money generated by the arts in Delaware has been a hot topic for arts organizations and non-profits since the October release of the Arts and Economic Prosperity Report completed by Americans for the Arts, a 52-year-old non-profit organization that aims to connect more citizens to the arts opportunities in their communities. The study revealed that, in years past, Delaware residents spent $17.71 per person on arts and culture in the First State, while visitors spend $55.93 per person.
And, while generating revenue is always good, Small said that money was just one small factor in the decision to create an exhibit space. She also thinks it's an opportunity to engage people, from out-of-towners to locals.
"Everything we have here is local," Small said. "We have pieces of Abbott's Mill, the John Dickinson Plantation, Loockerman Street Bridge. A lot of it is also plein air art, which means it was painted outdoors and on location."
The local pieces mean more conversations, too, as people ask about the scenery and how to find what they see.
"When I go out of town, I try to find something that will remind me of where I've been," Small said. "But, like everybody, I don't need another tchotchke. These are real keepsakes."
The tourism office does take a 20 percent commission but Small said the money helps the office cover the cost of getting the walls painted, the professional lettering and the stands for the three dimensional art. It will also help cover marketing costs, as well.
So far, the office has more art than space so as pieces sell, there are more waiting to be hung. The plan is to change out the exhibits every 60 to 90 days.
Currently, people can see the work of Dover artists like Stephanie Seeman, Jan Crumpley, Maria Bessette, N. Taylor Collins, Donna Hansen, Wayne McDermott and Donna Felton. Rosemary Connelly of Milford and Dianne Bauer of Harrington are also participating.
Fused glass artist Stephanie Seeman said she was honored that she was asked to participate and appreciates how Kent County Tourism supports cottage industry artists and artisans like herself.
"Events and locations like this really enhance the quality of life in Kent County," Seeman said. "Having a gallery such as this located within the tourism office was a brilliant idea."