Downtown Milford, Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to the development of a traditional central business district in Milford, is hoping to inspire citizens through a new public art project, that also aims to remind residents and teach visitors about Milford's long history in the boat-building industry.
The three-year project, "The Art of the Riverwalk Tour," partially funded by grants from the Delaware Division of the Arts and the Milford Lions Club, will feature 18 4-foot sculptures of the classic yacht, "Augusta," which was built by Milford's Vineyard Boat Yard in 1927. Artists in both Kent and Sussex Counties will be asked to design and decorate the boats, which will be displayed permanently along the Mispillion River and throughout downtown. The goal is to install six decorated sculptures per year.
DMI Executive Director Lee Nelson is confident that the project will boost tourism and create an interest in the town's history and art. He was a part of a similar project several years ago in Union Point, Ga. Union Point, known for its historic ties to trains and railroads used sculptures of locomotives though a similar community art installation. But, for Milford, he wanted something that he thought pulled together the town's slogan of "River Town. Art Town. Home Town."
The Augusta just seemed like a natural fit.
"The sculpture itself relates to our river town and our home-town heritage," Nelson said. "Then, the artists bring the art side of the equation."
Any artist in Kent or Sussex County can participate but time is of the essence for this project.
"The turnaround time is tight. Artists need to submit their designs and applications by Monday, Feb. 4," Nelson said. "Once we have the applications, the committee will pick the best designs and we'll notify everybody by Friday, Feb. 15 so that people can get the sculptures back by Monday, April 15."
The selection committee includes Milford Parks and Recreations Executive Director Gary Emory, Milford High School's art department head Nicole Carter, Augusta co-owner Joan Lofland and Mispillion Art League member and photographer Bob Connelly.
Artists will not be working just for notoriety or civic pride. Nelson said once the sculptures are turned in on April 15, they will be paid $600 for the work as well as up to $250 for materials and supplies. Additionally, artists may submit more than one application.
"Multiple applications are OK. We don't have a problem with that," Nelson said. "We just want to have six very good pieces of work for this first year."
Nelson then explained that the sculptures will be placed strategically around downtown some time in May or June, depending on the weather, to enhance other aspects of Milford, including the History Trail, downtown business areas and recreation locations.
Page 2 of 2 - "The idea is to draw people in and entice visitors," Nelson said. "I really think that once people come down to see the sculptures, they'll stay and experience everything we have to offer, from boutiques to galleries and restaurants."
But, he also thinks that public art enhances the quality of life, too.
"A project like this brings art out of the galleries and museums and into the public," Nelson said. "Not everybody wants to or is comfortable going to art galleries. This way, art becomes a part of the normal course of life. People can see something handmade and unique on a daily basis.
Selected artists and curious individuals can stop by the Downtown Milford, Inc. office, located at 115 N. Walnut St., or the Mispillion Art League, located at 5 N. Walnut St., to see the 4-foot sculptures. Those interested in participating can find a copy of the application by visiting downtownmilford.org.
IMPORTANT DATES TO REMEMBER
Monday, Feb. 4 Application and design ideas due
Friday, Feb. 15 Commissioned artists notified
Monday, Apr. 15 Completed sculptures due