Parke Green Galleries brings a working artist's studio and gallery back to downtown Dover

It's not just one artist's work that will be shown at the Parke Green Galleries. This gallery has three.

The artists are in – all three of them, as a matter of fact.

Taylor Collins, Jan Crumpley and Susan Johnston's unmistakable enthusiasm made that evident Tuesday morning with the opening of their Parke Green Galleries, a combination art studio and exhibition featuring works by all three women.

The Galleries are located at 325 S. State St., on the site of the colonial-era Golden Fleece Tavern, immediately adjacent to The Green. Hung with colorful paintings and other objects d'art, all of their own creation, it's hard to believe the buildings hosted their last tenants more than six years ago.

But Collins, Crumpley and Johnston have chased out the musty smell of disuse and spruced up the interior to fashion studios, galleries and offices that are unique to each, but which function together as a cohesive whole.

They've even coaxed former Dover businessman Tom Smith out of retirement to helm a new, smaller version of his Delaware Made store. Dubbed The Delaware Store, which is owned by Crumpley, Smith's new emporium features the best of the wares he once sold in his Loockerman Street storefront.

But the focus of Parke Green is on the three artists, each of who brings a distinct style and flair to her work.

Susan Johnston sees the galleries as a way to bring art to Dover.

"We're being up close and personal," she said. "That way we can be ambassadors not only of art but of history. We want to be another connection from The Green to Loockerman Street to the entire downtown area."

A native of Columbus, Ohio, Johnston has developed her craft since childhood, but really blossomed while living in different towns in West Virginia and Iowa as the wife of current Wesley College President Dr. William Johnston.

She works primarily in water colors and recently has returned to sketching in pen and ink, sometimes combining the two.

Partnering in the Parke Green Galleries will give her a chance to expand on her interests, Johnston said.

"It gives me a platform for discussing art and education like I've not had since I came to Dover," she said.

Eastern Shore native N. Taylor Collins likes to combine both her skills with a brush and her wordsmithing talents to customize paintings and other mementoes for weddings or other special occasions.

Although she always enjoyed painting, she came into her own when she discovered the works of renowned painter Jack Lewis. Eventually, she hooked up with Lewis to study the techniques that made him an art icon, not just in Delaware but nationwide.

"Painting was second nature to Jack," Collins said. "He taught me how to be an artist. He'd say, 'It's observation. The more you paint, the more you learn to observe.'"

Following Lewis' lead, Collins specializes in the primitive, or folk art, style, working in water color and acrylics.

As for her reasons for joining Johnston and Crumpley in a new business venture, Collins is succinct.

"We all love Dover and we all love history," she said. "We really want to let people know that Dover is fun and exciting and a really great place."

In addition to her artwork, Jan Crumpley is well known around Dover for her musical gifts, which she exhibits regularly as part of Celtic Harvest, a local Irish/folk group.

Although trained as a graphic artist, she yearned to express herself more freely with brush and paint.

"I've always painted," she said. "I was painting things for friends or myself, and just about everything I did I'd give away as gifts."

Also working in acrylics and water colors, Crumpley produces historic subjects and landscapes in what she calls a "realistic classical" style.

Because she gave away much of her prior work, Crumpley doesn't have as large a sampling of her art, but that's OK. She is thinking of publishing new creations on post cards and other items that Smith can sell in The Delaware Store.

The women have grand plans for the future of the Parke Green: although they'll normally close at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 4 p.m. on Saturdays, they'll be flexible in their hours for events such as First Fridays, Dover Days and other events that will bring people in to their gallery. They also hope to host art shows, book signings, receptions and other events to create more excitement downtown.

"We want to be a real draw for cultural tourism," Collins said. "We want Dover to be a place to see and be seen."