To kick off its 75th anniversary celebration, Rehoboth Art League will revisit its maiden voyage.
The art league is reenacting the 1938 arrival of the Paynter Studio in Henlopen Acres. The building originally stood along the banks of the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal in Lewes and was floated down the canal to the art league campus in Henlopen Acres.
The daylong spectacle will begin at 10 a.m. Friday, June 21, at Fisherman’s Wharf as a replica of the Paynter Studio will be loaded onto a pontoon boat. Rehoboth Beach Mayor Sam Cooper, whose grandfather, George Shockley, helped move the original farmhouse, will serve as commodore of the flotilla.
Following behind will be the Cape Water Taxi ship, “Discovery,” carrying local and foreign dignitaries.
“I think its going to be very exciting and a lot of fun,” art league President Diana Beebe said.
Art league executive director Sheila Bravo said the flotilla would be visible from vantage points at the Lewes wharf, in North Shores and at the Henlopen Acres marina. The replica farmhouse, sized as a playhouse or small art studio, is expected to arrive in Henlopen Acres at 11 a.m.
The replica was built by Echelon Custom Homes May 18. John Coyle of Renew Smart Renovation led the construction with help from children from First State Community Action Agency's after school program. After arriving at the art league campus for visitors to see, it will be raffled off to raise money for the league’s outreach program.
Bravo said the original Paynter Studio dates to 1780, when it sat on the banks of the canal as part of William Paynter’s Lewes estate until Ann Hazzard purchased it for $15 for the art league. Bravo said the art league planned to move the building by truck, but heavy rains in February and March caused vehicles to get stuck. So, it was decided to move it by barge. The building was floated down the canal in time for the art league’s opening day, June 18, 1938, she said.
The art league’s founders enlisted Shockley, who Cooper said was the go-to guy for such projects – his grandfather’s specialty was marine construction, building docks, piers, bridges and raising ships. Shockley often did work for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, who also employed Col. Wilbur Corkran, a founder of the art league.
Shockley was quite a character, Cooper said. He’d grown up on a farm on Old Landing Road, but the farm life was not for him, Cooper said. Shockley had many business interests: real estate, selling coal during the Depression and operating a sawmill. Although he helped the art league, Cooper said Shockley was not a member.
“That wasn’t his style,” he said.
Cooper has a special attachment to his grandfather: when Cooper’s own father died when Cooper was 2 years old, Shockley helped raise him, until Shockley’s death in 1962. Although he downplays in his own role in the flotilla ceremony, Cooper said he is happy the art league is recognizing his grandfather’s role in its history.
“He was very special for me,” Cooper said. “For them to recognize the things he did is special for me.”
Bravo said the art league would hold a rededication ceremony at 4 p.m. attended by Gov. Jack Markell, Sen. Tom Carper, Secretary of State Jeffrey Bullock and mayors Jim Ford of Lewes, David Hill of Henlopen Acres and Cooper of Rehoboth. The ceremony will be followed by a picnic supper at 5:30 p.m. in the Homestead Gardens with gourmet picnic boxes provided by the Blue Moon Restaurant.
Besides artists and local dignitaries, the festivities will also include a delegation from Rehoboth’s sister city, Greve in Chianti, Italy, Bravo said.
Beebe said everyone involved is excited to be celebrating the 75th anniversary of the art league, a milestone that is a tribute to the teachers and artists who have helped spur interest in the arts.
“We’re just extremely proud and excited to be celebrating all that,” she said.