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City Slick

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Photograph by Luigi CiuffetelliEven if you’re not the gambling type, there are two things you can stake house money on: You’ll never find Tina Betz in a navy blue pantsuit, and you won’t find one white wall in her Wilmington home.

“I’m very noncorporate,” says Betz. “I love big, bold, odd. That’s probably why I don’t have any white walls. We have red, salmon, purple—no white.”

To walk through her home of living color is like taking a stroll in her shoes—and no, they’re not plain-Jane black penny loafers.

As cultural affairs director for the city of Wilmington, she’s surrounded by all things vibrant and artsy.

“In addition to coordinating events for the  mayor’s office, we do a lot of programs out of our depart-

ment,” Betz says. “We put initiatives into place where we notice voids in arts programming and promote a healthier community.”

Those voids have turned into the city’s gems—the DuPont Jazz Festival, the July Fourth celebration, Theatre N, and Art on the Town and its after party, re:fresh, held at hot spots like OperaDelaware and the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts.

“We’ve been doing art loops since the ’80s, but it’s gone through a revitalization and it’s popular again,” Betz says. “We’re creating innovative energy and trying to color outside of the lines.”

The color-outside-of-the-lines thing is somewhat ingrained in Betz. “I do things because I want that look, not because I notice it on anyone else,” she says.

Case in point: Almost 10 years ago, Betz decided to go natural with her hairstyle. “I see it everywhere now,” she says with a laugh. “But I’ve never been one to follow the crowd.”

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And way before pint-sized starlets began layering themselves in pastel pashminas, Betz already had a closet bursting with scarves. “I’ve been collecting them for years. I probably have 60 or more,” she says. “I’m not a jacket person, so instead I wrap myself in scarves.”

Her favorite look is a frothy, lacy Victorian-inspired number that certainly sticks out in the crowd.

“I love bold,” Betz says. “At MoMA, my favorite piece is ‘Bed.’ I’m just so drawn to it.”

The piece, by artist Robert Rauschenberg, is a framed pillow and bedclothes splashed with—of course—big color.

A non-mall shopper, Betz often sifts through the hidden treasures at stores like Sacks Thrift Avenue in Bellefonte and the Salvation Army. “I find really unique jewelry at stores like that,” says the lover of all-things big when it comes to baubles.

She admits to one vice: “I love my pedicures,” she says.

For a woman so in tune with her style, it’s easy to see how she can clearly define that of the city.

“Wilmington is resilient,” she says. “I find it a very brave, hard-to-keep-down city. I’m proud of that. I’ve walked through many downtown areas, and people just throw their hands up and admit defeat. But not here. And I will actively engage in lively conversation with anyone who thinks otherwise.”

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