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This Art Stewards Program Conserves Wilmington’s Public Art

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Photos by Shannon Woodloe

The new public art stewards training program will help clean, conserve and document Wilmington’s most cherished public art pieces.

What gives a city its soul? It’s certainly not the corporate buildings, towers full of offices and car parks. The culture and heritage of a city is reflected in many ways, including public art. Murals on the sides of buildings and bridges show visitors the values and character of a place and bolster business investments, tourism and public pride. Mosaics, memorials and sculptures inspire all who see them and give cities a much-needed sense of vitality and humanity.

Pieces of public art are crucial because they aren’t gate-kept by museums or specialists, money or status. This art is a part of your community–you can touch it, photograph it and make it a part of your daily life. The city of Wilmington, with pieces of public art dating back to the 19th century, needs its art. Unfortunately, many of its public art pieces, exposed to the elements, have fallen into disrepair.

That’s where the brand new Public Art Stewards Training Program comes into play. A program 10 years in the making, it’s the first and only of its kind in the country.

The program is being funded by the Delaware Division of the Arts and the City of Wilmington American Rescue Plan Act. Under the tutelage of Margalit Schindler, the Principal Conservator at Pearl Preservation, LLC, a group of six to eight Wilmington residents will be paid part-time to be trained on how to clean, conserve and document 30 works of public art in the city. This will create a dramatic visual change in the landscape, especially near the mosaic mural by Creative Vision Factory found at Helen Chambers Park. This program will also teach the stewards such crucial transferable skills as digital and financial literacy. The Delaware Museum of Art will also be aiding this program along the way with its vast pool of resources and knowledge of art and conservation. As Benét Burton, the Curatorial Project Manager and Registrar Assistant at the Delaware Art Museum, writes in a recent article on the program, “With the progression of this project, we intend to advocate for the program to take root outside of Wilmington, expanding to all three Delawarean counties in the future. We believe that art is essential, here in our city and throughout our state.”

At a recent launch event for the training program, which included representatives from the Delaware Art Museum, such as Executive Director Molly Giordano, as well as from the Delaware Division of the Arts and the City of Wilmington, Mayor Michael Purzycki declared, “This city is thriving. This city is doing great…Our greatness lies in these efforts…The heart and soul is right here.”

Related: DiAE Has Made Art Education Accessible in Delaware for 40 Years