Friday, January 21, 2011

Settled in Easton Maryland--alas

Philadelphia to Easton

Easton, Maryland
What an incredible day today has been on so many levels.  We left Philly with snowcapped high rises
and landed in Easton, MD  with a glorious sunset, welcoming our arrival on the shores of Maryland. 

The inbetween of the day was marked by brisk walks and visits with a handful of artists in Millville, NJ,  viewing Victorian rowhouses along the beaches of Cape May, and taking a rock n' roll ferry trip  (and I don't mean the musical type)  across the Delaware Bay.
 Millville is about an hours drive south of Philly and is historically known for its glassworks, with a coveted paperweight as its namesake, the Melville Rose.   Due to its abundance of natural resources needed for making glass, Southern New Jersey became the center of the American glass industry with its ealiest successful glass factory founded in 1789 by Caspar Wistar.  Along side the efforts of early pioneers, such as Wistar and Dr. Wheaton,  a pharmaticist who had his pharmaceutical bottles made by a Millville glass company, it was Wheaton's grandson who cemented Millvilles ability to continue its deep association of glass today through Wheaton Arts Center, a working glass studio and museum of american glass art.  The Wheatons first collection was held in their residence on High Street in Millville, which today is embracing the arts as means to revitalize High Street into an arts district, which was later moved into the Wheaton Arts Center.

During this leg of our journery,  A. Paul and I had the opportunity to walk High Street and visit the few open businesses/galleries along the road followed by a  drive to nearby Wheaton Arts Center. Both visits were informative and inspiring.

At Wheaton Arts Center, we resourcefully poked around until we caught the attention of someone in one of the main studios.  As it happened, it was the glass studio within the center.  The center closes at the start of January but the main entrance to the quasi-Victorian village  is still open for museum viewing during Jan - March, when the season begins again for the Arts Center, thus why we were able to poke around.

Kerry Filiberto and Andrew Newbold
Inside the glass studio, we hooked up with three sociable and likable artists, Don Friel, one of three artists who continue to make the Mellville Rose paperweight, Andrew Newbold, who works in various mediums, and Max Lefko, a Northamption artist now living in Millville.

The large space surrounding the major central kiln can seat  50+ people and in season the studio is most commonly used as a working demonstration center where apprentice and laymen learn the secrets of glassmaking, though one is hands on and the other through viewing.  Though none of the artists we spoke to actually have their own website, you can read about the history of the Wheaton Center and Don Friel is a featured artist on the site

A. Paul with Don Friel, left

Our jaunt down the main street of Millville, called the Glassart District, was closed to through traffic due to the total collapse of its 1905 theater, A. Paul and I were able to walk the streets and visit one ceramic works studio run as an extension to Cumberland County College called Clay College.

The 150 feet long studio with 15 pottery wheels and four kilns is a fully functional studio with gallery exhibit space at the front.  According to the Clay College director, Jacqueline Sandro, the school participates in the Third Friday openings alongside other businesses and galleries on the street where she exhibits the works of its students. 

Clay College Ceramic Studio  Sharon (r) and Jean (l)
When we visited the site, there were two wonderful, non traditional students, Sharon Vitale and Jean Helmer, who were working on their ceramics. Both were kind enough to continuing working while A. Paul photographed them. 

Sharon Vitale
The other major center on High Street is the Renaissance Center, which was unfortunately closed.  The town of Millville definitely demonstrates a commitment to advancing the arts and should be on anyone's list to visit but I would suggest in season to experience it fully.

Cape May
Cape May

White beaches, victorian style houses, and fun. Though the town itself was in hibernation, it is easy to see that Cape May is a quaint, fun loving beach town.   Long stretches of white sand balance the colorful rows of new and revived victorian homes that dot the main beach road.  About two blocks into town is a walking-only shopping district.

After a short frolic on the beach, we headed to N. Cape May to catch our hour twenty minute ferry ride across the Delaware Bay.  The ride was a bit cool and bumpy but we simply bundled up in the car and headed out with the sun on our faces.

Once on the other side, Delaware and Maryland's wide open fields were drenched in soft hues of colors, with an enchanting, dream-like sunset greeting us. 

Tomorrow we explore Easton's Academy of the Arts and make our way to Washington, DC.

Entering Easton

No comments: