Brush with beauty: Arts to come alive in Dover with paint contest

DOVER — Downtown Dover can be “pretty as a picture,” particularly in the fall as the leaves on the trees begin to take on dramatic color changes.

More than 20 artists from around Delaware, as well as from Baltimore, the Eastern Shore, New York and Virginia, will be looking to capitalize on such scenery as they will converge on Dover on First Friday, Oct. 4, for the inaugural art event “Arts Alive at Five!”

Dennis Young, owner of Mo’zart Studios in New Castle who will serve as the judge of Friday’s event, recalled participating in a similar outdoor painting event that took place several years ago as part of Dover Days.

Diane Laird

“It was wonderful to paint in our state’s capital city and the park-like setting of The Green at that time,” Mr. Young said. “I am thrilled to see that this year’s event will encourage artists to paint commercial buildings up and down Loockerman and adjacent streets, as well as on State Street and The Green. Downtown Dover has so many ‘painterly’ scenes.”

“Arts Alive at Five!,” in which artists are encouraged to paint colorful scenes of downtown Dover in watercolor, oil and pastel, is open to amateur and professional artists, as well as high school and college students.

To welcome the artists to the state capital and to give them different painting options, downtown merchants are preparing their window displays in a colorful harvest and arts theme. Their window displays will be judged as well as part of the Downtown Dover Partnership Merchants Committee fall window display contest.

Diane Laird, executive director of the Downtown Dover Partnership, said that encouraging the arts is important in order to have a vibrant downtown community.

“The arts — whether musical and performing, literary, visual, culinary or other — all have the opportunity to touch people in unique ways,” Ms. Laird said. “In downtown Dover we have made the arts an ongoing centerpiece of First Fridays because making the arts accessible to all walks of life can bridge gaps and provide opportunities otherwise not accessible in a community setting.

“And whether creating or performing art, learning new skills, or watching and enjoying art, people can move or be moved from the day to day, the mundane, the ‘analytical left brain’ to enjoy the more creative and imaginative right-brain activities. The arts truly help to bring color and rhythm and fun to a setting where everyone can participate. And who doesn’t want to have fun?”

The Dover painting event will be a part of “The 2019 Big Draw Festival Delaware,” where more than 50 activities and classes suitable for artists and non-artists, families and kids will be offered throughout the state of Delaware.

Presented by the Mispillion Arts League in Milford and sponsored by Bayhealth, the festival is part of an international annual event taking place in over 25 countries and involving more than 500,000 participants.

Ms. Laird said she is excited the see the growing number of registrants to the “Paint Dover!” event, some of whom are professional painters who travel the region and even the country to participate in plein air events.

“En plein air” is a French expression that means “in the open air” used to describe the art of painting outdoors.

Artists from around the region will take to the streets, parks, sidewalks and outdoor cafes to participate in Friday’s event. Inspired by downtown Dover’s architectural landscape, historic commercial buildings, gardens and scenery, artists will attempt to quickly capture changing light and shadows, and the spirit of downtown Dover.

The community is invited to watch the artists throughout the day, attend the judging of paintings, and even cast their vote for best painting in show via a “People’s Choice” award, at which time they may also purchase artwork, some of which will still be wet on the canvas.

Alison Barry is an artist entered in the event from Southern Maryland.

“I heard that Dover is a cute, historic town with lots of shops and I have been looking for an opportunity to check out Dover’s buildings and local sites in the downtown (area),” Ms. Barry said.

She painted in the juried outdoor painting event in Nova Scotia, Canada, this summer, and recently “Mountain Maryland Plein Air,” among others.

Jim Rehak, who served as the First Friday caricature artist in June, is also registered for Friday’s painting contest. He is also on the circuit as a plein air painter, most recently painting in Lewes, Chincoteague, Virginia, and Easton and Berlin, Maryland.

“I’ve seen the morning light illuminate those buildings on The Green in Dover and this will create an ideal plein air painting subject,” Mr. Rehak said.

Several residents of Dover are set to host artists who will be coming from a farther distance than a one-day event will reasonably allow for travel, including Tonda and Joe Parks and Kip and Joe McDaniel.

The event will culminate in a “wet paint” exhibition between 4:30 and 7 p.m. at Loockerman Way Plaza at 126 Loockerman St., where artwork will be available for sale.

The public is encouraged to attend and cast their vote by 6 p.m. for a favorite painting. All awards will be announced beginning at 6 p.m. at the Plaza (rain location Dover Art League, 21 W. Loockerman St.)

Arts lovers and artists of any ability are invited to participate. A variety of awards will be presented, including several from the artist judge Mr. Young; “Mayor’s Pick,” as sponsored and selected by city of Dover Mayor Christiansen; two awards presented by staff of sponsor PAM Rehabilitation of Dover; and the People’s Choice award. Jerry’s Artarama and Dick Blick art stores have provided gift cards to be awarded, as well.

Registration information may be found on Eventbrite at

Participants are asked to pre-register, but registration will also take place upon artist check-in at House of Coffi between the hours of 7-10 a.m. the day of the event and at the Dover Art League after 10 a.m. Those who would like to participate “behind the scenes” can visit to photograph, provide food for the artists’ casual dinner or to volunteer otherwise.

The event will be held rain or shine, as artists paint in poor weather from under their auto hatchbacks, umbrellas or under canopies and many merchants will remain open later into Friday evening. For more information, contact Ms. Laird at or call 302-678-2940.

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