A drive across Delaware showcases rolling fields, sand and surf, quaint towns and transforming cityscapes.
Now those views include a bit more artistry, thanks to Visit Delaware’s Delaware Discoveries Trail. Created to boost tourism, especially among a younger demographic, the trail consists of 10 interactive murals painted by local and national artists, with vastly different backdrops.
Unveiled in fall of 2020, the murals are on display with no current end date.
“This idea of interactive street art came to light, and what we know about these pieces of artwork is that people will travel to the destinations to see them and sometimes wait an hour in line just to get their picture,” says Liz Keller, director of Delaware Tourism.
The murals are meant to “spark a little joy” and pull people to areas they’ve never visited. Keller says the locations were chosen to represent different sectors of the state’s tourism.
One mural is located at the Lewes-Cape May Ferry (transportation), another at Mispillion River Brewing (craft brewery), another at the Delaware Children’s museum (arts and culture) and another in the town of Wyoming (agriculture).
Keller says her team wanted to offer visitors typical spots they’d visit but also promote new locations that are off the beaten path.
Artists were chosen with the help local nonprofit Developing Artist Collaboration, as well as through a submission contest. Wilmington-based artist Christian Kanienberg won the contest to create the mural at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.
Opting to create an image that invoked fantasy with sea life and the ferry, Kanienberg’s mural depicts fish happily swimming in whimsical spirals of turquoise, salmon and yellow. On the left side, the word Lewes is painted in bright red letters.
“I wanted people to feel like they were within [the artwork],” Kanienberg says.
The artist enjoyed chatting with onlookers he encountered throughout the process, and has been grateful for the positive response to his work through social media.
“There seems to be this thirst for people to have artwork in their life,” he notes.
Leah Beach, executive director of the Developing Artist Collaboration, helped Delaware tourism recruit artists but was also a participating artist herself, painting a mural at Hagley Museum in Wilmington. Her neutral, muted painting of dandelions floating in the wind combined nature with an industrial feel, a concept she says Hagley wanted to reflect on the property.
She says she is grateful that the Discoveries Trail offered a little hope during a time when she and other artists aren’t participating in exhibitions or events, and therefore don’t have much income.
“We have a state that really embraces connecting people to the arts,” Beach says.
With the pandemic changing everyday life, the trail couldn’t have been unveiled at a better time. Keller points out that people are seeking more outdoor, socially distanced activities, and the trail fits that criteria perfectly while also continuing to encourage tourism around the state.
“The trail is an activity that can be enjoyed year-round no matter the time of year,” Keller says. “It’s also very COVID-compliant, as each piece of artwork is outdoors.”
Visitors are encouraged to take photos with the murals and post them on social media. Those who post at least four photos with the hashtag #DelawareDiscoveries can upload them to delawarediscoveries.com/submit-photos for a chance to receive a DIY paint-pour kit created with the Discoveries Trail in mind by the Developing Artist Collaboration group Dirty Hands.
How the trail will change or grow is currently uncertain, but Beach hopes to see it expand to include new locations. Its popularity so far proves art is a connector, she says, especially during such stressful times. “I think that art ultimately brings people together in such a beautiful way.”
For more information on the Delaware Discoveries Trail, visit delawarediscoveries.com.