Will Rehoboth Art League break bread?

June 8, 2013

In response to the News Journal article dated May 3, the ongoing, and much publicized, dispute between Henlopen Acres and the Rehoboth Art League is not about a town council flexing their muscle at a defenseless art gallery in Sussex County.  The heart of this contention concerns the reasonable expectations that exist between two neighbors in a shared community.  It is about simple courtesy.

Henlopen Acres is home to about 122 year-round residents, many of whom are retired, lured here by the sweet "balsam air" and warm "salt breezes." Yet others may have desired the community because it featured its own art gallery and studios, serving residents, non-residents and tourists alike.

However, having lived in Henlopen Acres for nearly 50 years, I have seen the centrally located Rehoboth Art League transform from a quaint and simple art gallery, offering small classes and seminars, to a multi-faceted commercial/entertainment complex offering a locale for weddings, cottage tours, counseling, yoga, girls night out and science fairs, activities which are far removed from its historic role.

This has been a problem festering for years. Ever since the courts ruled in favor of Henlopen Acres by prohibiting the art league to enlarge their Chambers studio, there has been difficulty finding consensus on the historic non-conforming use of the art league. We need to put our differences aside. The art league needs to know that we are supportive of their historic mission. However, we need to do it in a way that is fair and respectful to everyone in the community.

In 1938, Col. Corkran and his wife Louise, the founders of the Rehoboth Art League, envisioned a setting what would provide a simple venue for local artists to showcase their talents. A mission and direction that has since changed without much input from the very residents who live right next door.

Since the Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the State of Delaware and the Rehoboth Art League, it has left a sense of unease with the residents that the unauthorized activities will continue to expand. The state has decided to favor the art league and its members, many of whom are residents in other states. We are willing to work with the art league and are supportive of their role in our shared community, however, we first need to all sit down at the table and talk it over like the neighbors we are.

The question is - will the art league break bread at the table, or sit alone?

Jim Maloney
Henlopen Acres

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