Yachts are sailing on the streets of Milford.
Not literally, but artistically.
The community has entered the last phase of its Art on the Riverwalk Tour project, which involves asking Sussex and Kent county artists to create 4-foot-long models of the original yacht Augusta, the first boat built by Milford’s Vineyard Boat Yard in 1927.
The project’s overall aim: to beautify the town and increase economic development by enhancing downtown appeal.
“The process was fascinating for many reasons,” said Anne Jenkins, one of the artists chosen for the project. “We are benefiting Milford by remembering past history while also adding new beauty to the place we all love.”
Downtown Milford Inc., a nonprofit working to develop the downtown district, hopes to teach the community about the town’s history by reinforcing the branding, “River Town, Art Town, Home Town.” The nonprofit is collaborating with the Mispillion Art League, the town’s Parks & Recreation Department, and Milford High School.
Jenkins’ two boats, as well as four others from the project’s first phase, are on display in the town’s center along the Mispillion River.
Each of the professional artists was partnered to mentor local high school art students selected by Nicole Carter, an arts teacher at the high school.
“It’s a shame that art programs are getting cut left and right,” said Lee Nelson, executive director of Downtown Milford. “We want to keep art alive in the community members who already value it, as well as in the physical community, itself, in hopes to inspire others to value it, too.”
Two more phases will each repeat the process with new teams of professional artists and art students.
The second set of six boats are all decorated and were unveiled to the public in the town’s center earlier this month.
These are being held in storage until the end of the month, when the Parks & Recreation Department will finish building the platforms and will install the boats permanently, Nelson said.
For the third and final phase, Downtown Milford has taken the first step of applying for grants, including from the Delaware Division of the Arts and the Kent County Fund for the Arts.
The nonprofit will issue a call to artists in November. Those interested will have until early 2015 to submit conceptual design plans that must illustrate their interpretations of the town’s brand.
“We are the only town in Delaware that still has a shipyard, and we take pride in the incredible boating history Milford has,” Nelson said.
The final six boat models will be finished and accepted by mid-April and should be installed by June of next year, Nelson said.
Project organizers hope the yachts will attract people who wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable attending art galleries.
“No matter who you are, no matter what you do, the art is there to be appreciated, and we hope the community takes advantage of that,” Nelson said.
Ultimately, the 18 locally painted Augusta boat models will be displayed along the riverwalk, lining the Mispillon River and serve as a reminder of the community’s heritage.
“Yes, Milford has a wonderful history of boating that we hope to spark interest in,” Nelson said. “But we also hope people stay and enjoy the area by going shopping or grabbing a bite to eat in this great atmosphere we call home.”
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