Arts & Crafts by the Brandywine

Krista Connor

The annual festival brings the usual—hundreds of exhibitors—plus the first-ever featured artist, bird-home-builder Tom Burke

Featuring hundreds of artists, the annual Brandywine Festival of the Arts returns to Wilmington on the weekend of Sept. 12-13. The 54-year-old Delaware tradition brings some 20,000 visitors to Brandywine Park’s Josephine Gardens for an end-of-summer celebration. The exhibiting artists and craftsmen encompass a wide range of styles, and the event includes live music performances, children’s activities, and many local food vendors.

This year, the festival celebrates its first-ever featured artist, bird-home-builder Tom Burke. The Wilmington native’s bird homes aren’t your average back porch nesting nooks. Some are 9 ft. wide and bring commissions of up to $14,000 from such clients as legendary film director George Lucas and members of the DuPont family.

Until 15 years ago when he took up bird-home-making, Burke was in the construction business with his father, building houses for humans. He moved on when competitive corporations came to the area, and got into his current craft as a hobby. Once his skill was discovered by friends, family and, eventually, wealthy people, the hobby quickly grew into a full-time job of making replicas of historic buildings or his clients’ homes, like Lucas’ Skywalker Ranch.

Burke, who is nationally-renowned and has been featured on CBS’s Sunday Morning, will display his Wyeth collection, a series of bird homes based on the paintings of houses by Chadds Ford artist Andrew Wyeth. He will also display a home based on the old Monkey House at the Brandywine Zoo.

Burke, who will be on hand both days of the festival to talk to visitors about his art, says being the inaugural featured artist is “a very big honor.”

For $5, festival-goers receive a one-time handstamp that will gain them come-and-go admission for both days. The stamp also allows admission to the Brandywine Zoo for just $1.

This is a rain or shine event.

The first Brandywine Arts Festival, held in 1961, was organized by the nonprofit organization Recreation Promotion and Service, and was a one-day event featuring two-dimensional art and a bull roast. Participating artists hung paintings on clotheslines and fences. Over the years, the bull roast tradition was dropped, fine craft items were added, artists began to use racks and canopies to display their work, and the festival evolved into the tradition it is today.

Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

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