February: Sweet on the Arts

Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald

There’s plenty of tasty ArtStuff happening this month, including music, theater, visual arts and more

Shine a Light Enters Decade of Excess

On Saturday, Feb. 29, at The Queen, Shine a Light® enters the material world, paying homage to 1980 and all that came with it: the launch of MTV and the Space Shuttle, the introduction of Macintosh Computers and “brick” cell phones, Valley Girls and yuppies

This writer is personally very excited about the event, having grown up in the Decade of Decadence and all its big-haired, new wave, awesome glory. While Shine a Light’s set list is always the town’s best-kept secret, I’m thinking it must (or at least should) include legendary picks from staples like Benatar

and Springsteen, perhaps a little AC/DC and Blondie, and—dare I dream—Air Supply?

This is the ninth year for Light Up the Queen’s annual fundraiser, which boasts a roster of more than 40 local rock stars.

Tickets, both VIP and general, are available now, and they’re pretty much guaranteed to sell out, so don’t wait. A VIP ticket will get you into the party early (at 6 p.m.), and the doors open for all at 7.  Visit Eventbrite.com for tickets. Dust off your legwarmers, Izod and Calvin Kleins. The ‘80s are totally back.

DDOA Names 2020 Artist Fellows

The Delaware Division of the Arts (DDOA) has named 19 Delaware artists as its 2020 Individual Artist Fellows. This annual recognition grants Delaware artists funds to develop and advance their portfolio and endeavors as working artists.

Submissions from nearly 140 Delaware choreographers, composers, musicians, writers, folk and visual artists were reviewed by independent out-of-state arts professionals. Those selected represent the arts statewide, hailing from Dover, Lewes, Milford, Milton, Newark, New Castle, Rehoboth Beach and Wilmington.

Individual Artists Fellow awards are presented in three categories: $10,000 for the Masters Award; $6,000 for the Established Professional Award; and $3,000 for the Emerging Professional Award.

According to the DDOA, an Emerging Professional is considered in the early stages of his/her career; an Established Professional is more experienced, achieving some recognition for his/her artwork (e.g., prizes, awards, publication). The Masters category is an artist who has received an Established Professional Fellowship in the same discipline from the DDOA more than seven years ago.

Wilmington-area musician Mark Unruh is the DDOA Masters Award recipient in Folk Art: Music. Unruh is a multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, composer and instructor who teaches at The Music School of Delaware, Accent Music Store in Wilmington and Pro Musica Studios in Kennett Square, Pa. His musical style ranges from bluegrass to classical, jazz, blues, rock and ragtime. He has shared the stage with such legends as David Bromberg, Jay Unger and Molly Mason, Tammy Wynette and David Grier.

“Individual Artist Fellowship grants provide the recognition and exposure that artists need to successfully promote their work,” said Paul Weagraff, director of Delaware Division of the Arts. “The financial award allows them to pursue advanced training, purchase equipment and materials, or fulfill other needs to advance their careers.”

All recipients are required to present at least one exhibit or performance during the upcoming year, providing an opportunity for the public to experience their work.

The work of all the DDOA Fellows will be featured in a group exhibition, entitled Award Winners XX, at the Biggs Museum in Dover from June 5 to July 23. Selections from award winners will also exhibit at CAMP Rehoboth in Rehoboth Beach for the month of August and Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington from Sept. 4 to Oct. 25. 

Here are the other award winners:

Established Professional Awards
• Taylor Reid Adams of Wilmington – Literature: Fiction
• Anne Colwell of Milton – Literature: Creative Nonfiction
• Merideth Hite Estevez of Wilmington – Music: Solo Recital
• Shelley Koon of Dover — Visual Arts: Photography
• Ralph Gresham Lam of Wilmington – Folk Art: Music
• Aaron Paskins of Dover – Visual Arts: Sculpture
• Nicholas Serratore of Lewes – Visual Arts: Works on Paper
• Constance M. Simon of Wilmington – Visual Arts: Painting
• Caroline N. Simpson of Wilmington – Literature: Poetry
• Robert Bruce Weston of Milton – Visual Arts: Crafts
• Jonathan W. Whitney of Wilmington – Jazz: Composition
• Michele Xiques of Milford – Dance: Choreography

Emerging Professional Awards
• Sarah Bennett of Rehoboth Beach — Literature: Creative Nonfiction
• Kim DeCicco of Lewes — Literature: Fiction
• Kari Ann Ebert of Dover – Literature: Poetry
• Michael Fleishman of Milford – Visual Arts: Works on Paper
• Chloe McEldowney of Wilmington – Visual Arts: Painting
• Guy Miller of New Castle – Visual Arts: Sculpture

Honorable Mention:
• Crystal Heidel of Milton – Literature: Fiction
• Colleen Zufelt of Wilmington – Visual Arts: Sculpture

Artist Julio daCunha’s work is featured in Delaware Arts Museum’s Distinguished Artist Series. Photo courtesy of the Delaware Art Museum

DAM Seeks Support for Exhibit

Delaware Art Museum is preparing an exhibit by Columbian artist Julio daCunha as part of its Distinguished Artist Series, which recognizes artists who have made an impact on their local community. daCunha’s exhibit, Modernizing Myths, will be on view Feb. 29 through May 10, and includes works from the art museum’s collection as well as pieces from public institutions and private collections.

Julio daCunha was born in 1929 in Bogotá, Colombia. After receiving a Master of Fine Arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art (Bloomfield Hills, Mich.), he came to Delaware and began teaching at the University of Delaware. He served as department chair from 1966 to 1969 and continued to teach until his retirement in 1994. daCunha has named among his influences such artists as Gorky, Klee, Picasso and de Goya.

The art museum has issued a call to patrons to sponsor this singular, locally connected exhibit. Donors who contribute $250 or more before Friday, Feb. 7, will receive named recognition on the exhibit’s gallery wall. Contributions will continue to be accepted after this date, but recognition will not be included on the wall. To make a gift, visit delart.org, selecting “daCunha sponsorship” as the designation.

Other Artstuff of Note Blues Artists’ Musical Might in Arden

On Saturday, Feb. 15, at 8 p.m., Arden Concert Gild welcomes a pair of artists who pack a one-two punch of bluesy female force.

Vanessa Collier and Deb Callahan and their bands hit the Arden stage to commence the “Night of the Mighty Blues Women.” Collier—a nationally known singer/songwriter and instrumentalist—took home the Blues Foundation’s Blues Music Award for Best Horn Player in 2019, reportedly blowing the roof off the Nashville venue in a sax performance with mentor Joe Louis Walker. Callahan, a Philly-based soulful singer/songwriter with an enthusiastic regional and national following, has garnered raves from such industry media as Blues Review Magazine and jazzreview.com.

Tickets are $20 at ardenconcerts.com or at Between Books in Arden. 

Martin Reclaims Director’s Chair

Delaware Theatre Company Executive Director Bud Martin once again steps into the director’s role for the Tony Award–nominated John Patrick Shanley play Outside Mullingar.

Shanley (whose work includes the Oscar-winning screenplay for Moonstruck) sets this romantic comedy in rural Ireland. Shanley’s previous work, Doubt: A Parable, won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play.

In Outside Mullingar, Anthony and Rosemary—played by Charlie DelMarcelle (Lucy & Saint Joan) and Kim Carson (Honk!) —are young farmers who “haven’t got a clue” about love. Both must overcome land feuds, family rivalries and their own romantic fears to find happiness. Shanley’s play, a mix of dark humor and poetic prose, reminds us that it’s never too late to take a chance on love.

Outside Mullingar captures the spirit of Ireland—it’s both beautiful and haunting,” says Martin. “It shows the [stubborn] nature of people who don’t know how to accept love in an environment where emotions are buried.”

Outside Mullingar runs Feb. 12 through March 1. Tickets are available at delawaretheatre.org or by calling 594-1100.

Opera Gets App-y at Bootless

Bootless Stageworks continues to “unlace convention” with its production of GRINDR: The Opera—An Unauthorized Parody, which opened Jan. 31 at the group’s space in St. Stephens Church, 1301 N. Broom St., Wilmington.

The piece—whose book, music, and lyrics were penned by New York playwright/composer/actor Erik Ransom—was named Best New Musical at the ninth annual Off-West End Awards (i.e., the “Offies,” which are akin to New York’s “Obies”) in London last year. For Bootless’ take, they tapped actor/director (and former OperaDelaware executive director) Leland “Buzz” Kimball to take the stage director helm, along with Music Director James W. Fuerst.

Bootless Artistic Director Rosanne DellAversano saw Kimball and his daughter, Liz, performing in a cabaret, which, among other topics, addressed problems and joys of being a gay parent. Kimball hadn’t heard of the play when DellAversano first approached him.

“And,” he adds, “I only had a vague idea of how the app [Grindr] worked. However, I found the libretto intriguing, funny and sometimes poignant, so I said I’d do it.”

Kimball summarizes the story as four men who become involved after using the popular “hook-up” app. Two try a long-term relationship; the other two indulge in no-strings-attached one-night stands. In the show, he says, “Grindr” is actually a real character, sung by a countertenor and modeled after the Sirens of Greek mythology (who lured sailors to their death with their enchanting songs). With musical styles ranging from baroque to contemporary pop, Kimball says the opera explores the aspects of gay love from varying angles, but is still a show that can be widely enjoyed.

“Audiences, whether gay or straight, should expect to be entertained,” he says. “The music is delightful and full of quotes from Lady Gaga to Stephen Sondheim to Gilbert and Sullivan; and we’ve dressed it up with a bit of choreography.”

Kimball says that while the world represented in the play may not be completely familiar to some, the questions it asks are universal and thought-provoking—is love about instant gratification or commitment? Is sex about a struggle for power? Is it possible to forgive a lover who strays?

GRINDR: The Opera is running now through Saturday, Feb. 15. Tickets are available at bootless.org.

So, what do you think? Please comment below.