Lewes mural celebrates menhaden industry

Public invited June 7 to artwork, plaque unveiling
May 23, 2019

There are few things Lewes residents cherish more than the city’s history.

That couldn’t be more evident in a new mural on the side of the Beacon Motel on Lewes Beach. Completed by muralist Damon Pla earlier this week, the mural depicts menhaden fishermen hard at work in the Delaware Bay, a nod to Lewes’ long and storied relationship to the sea.

“I’ve had so many people come up to me during this process and thank me for what I’m doing,” Pla said as he was adding the final touches to the painting May 14.

Pla started the mural March 25. It was supposed to be a four- to five-week project, but Mother Nature had other plans. When the weather cooperated, Pla worked on average six to seven hours a day. Some days he’d put in nearly 12 hours.

“There have been only a couple of days I’ve taken off voluntarily,” he said.

The public is invited to attend the unveiling of the mural and the plaque commemorating Otis Smith and the menhaden fishery in Lewes at 11:30 a.m., Friday, June 7.

Pla has been painting murals for the last 25 years, since he was a teenager. Although he’s painted larger murals, he said, this project is easily the most historic.

“I can say this is a first,” he said.

To prepare, he sat down with Tony Boyd-Heron of Peninsula Gallery and local artist Steve Rogers. They reviewed historic photographs of menhaden fishing, and Rogers taught Pla the process of how fishermen worked.

From there, Pla took elements from several photographs and assembled them on canvas. His finished product was on display at Peninsula Gallery for a Feb. 9 fundraiser for the project. 

In late March, Pla got to work, using a lift to first sketch the mural, then apply a special exterior acrylic from California.

The paint is designed to last at least 10 years – enough time for residents and visitors to appreciate a piece of Lewes history.

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