A place where artists can learn and grow
The Everett Theatre and the Gibby Center have been longtime partners in promoting the arts in Middletown.
By John Chambless
About five years ago, artist Mickey Barton decided to take a class in stained glass at the Gilbert W. Perry Jr. Center for the Arts in Middletown. That small decision changed her life.
“I had been involved with the Everett Theatre since the early '80s,” Barton said recently. “I used to be in shows there. I took a stained glass course, and now I do my own thing and branched off as an artist on my own. I just discovered I had a knack to do it. That's what we're all about. Someone comes in, takes a class, finds out they have talent, work on it and boom, there you go,” she said, laughing.
The union of several arts organizations has been beneficial for the groups and the community at large. The Everett Theatre, Inc., began in the early 1980s when the historic theater was reopened as a venue for movies, plays and concerts. The arts guild – rather cleverly named Guild By Association – started in 2006 to offer art classes and networking opportunities for artists. They operate as a branch of the Gibby Center, with a gift shop in the building next door to the Everett. In the back of the building – a former car dealership and auto parts store – there's an open space to hold art classes.
“Our whole purpose is to expand the arts in the community,” Barton said. “It's for artists to get together and share ideas. We have members of the Gibby Center and the Guild and the Everett come and do classes. We'll take anyone who wants to come and share their art with the community.”
The Guild by Association group has regular meetings, and members are asked to work 10 or 12 hours a month to support the Guild Shoppe and volunteer as needed. In return, they get valuable networking opportunities, and a chance to sell their work in the shop.
“The biggest thing is to be able to share your artistic ability with other artists,” Barton said. “It helps to encourage each other. We artists are kind of strange folk,” she added, laughing. “We've been having meetings about every two weeks recently because we've got so many things in the works. We're having growing pains, you might say.”
The Guild ran a very busy children's summer art camp this year, and the building was packed with more than 100 visitors during the final art show by the campers. For a regular opening at the Hudson Contemporary Gallery in the Gibby Center, “about 20 to 40 people come out, which could be better, but getting the word out is the biggest problem we have,” Barton said. “We need to promote the fact that the gift shop is open year-round. People think we're only open during Christmas.”
The shop is open Thursday through Saturday, as well as during some special events in town. “We coordinate with all the arts groups in town,” Barton said. “We'll sometimes stay open if there's a special showing or a movie at the Everett. People can come in before the show, or during intermission, to look around.”
The biggest show of the year is the “Small Works, Perfect Gifts” holiday exhibit and sale, Barton said. “The entire gallery is filled with artworks. This year, I think we'll be spilling out into the open studio part because we're growing so much. We have a lot more artists interested and involved.”
The Peach Festival this summer was another big day for the Guild. “It was our most successful event yet,” Barton said. “That was pretty exciting. We had people streaming in and out. We also took part in the last two community parades, passing out cards so people know we're here.
“We work with all of the community groups, like Main Street Middletown, the Historical Society, and we participate in all the First Fridays,” Barton said. “We usually have a program of some sort going on.”
The Guild Shoppe draws many visitors from the Middetown area, but also from Maryland, Barton said. “Part of that is because people go through Middletown to get to the Eastern Shore. We're the only arts center between Wilmington and Dover. And we're smaller, which is nice. Beginning artists can come in and show their works and get recognition early on.”
Upcoming events include "Fall Splendor," a show by local artists (through Oct. 31); "Small Works, Perfect Gifts" (Nov. 15 to Dec. 24). The Guild Shoppe is open Thursdays and Fridays from noon to 5 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the Everett Theatre, the Gibby Center and Guild by Association, visit www.everetttheatre.com.
To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.