The "Art of the Riverwalk" Tour, a community art project that will place artfully decorated sculptures of the yacht Augusta around downtown Milford, is progressing towards its first phase one goal of six completed statues.

In just a few short months, several locations along the Mispillion River will be decked out with colorful sculptures, thanks to the efforts of the artists working on Milford's community art project, "Art of the Riverwalk Tour." The tour was conceptualized and initiated by Downtown Milford, Inc, the city's downtown revitalization organization headed by Executive Director Lee Nelson.

The multi-phase project, partially funded by grants from the Delaware Division of the Arts and the Milford Lions Club, will feature six hand-painted sculptures of the yacht, "Augusta," which was built by Milford's Vinyard Boat Yard in 1927.

"The sculpture itself relates to our river town and our home town heritage," said Nelson. "Then, the artists bring the art side of the equation."

Following the announcement and application process that began at the end of January, four local artists were notified on Friday, Feb. 15 that they would be the project's inaugural class for phase one of the venture: Gail Angelucci, David Rule, Anne Jenkins and Cathy Walls were chosen by a four-person committee, who evaluated design ideas from artists in both Kent and Sussex counties.

The artists were told that creativity and professionalism were central concepts but, most importantly, all sculpture themes needed to incorporate Milford's slogan of "River Town. Art Town. Home Town."

"Progress is going well and how the artists have interpreted the theme is just amazing," said Nelson. "From David Rule's strong graphic background and use of bold colors to Cathy Walls' very detailed and intimate scenes of downtown Milford."

The community art project is also utilizing the talents of several artistic teens who are participating as interns. Ann McGehrin, Kim McKinney, Carlo Rodriguez and Evelyn Orta have been contributing ideas, painting, sculpting and getting real world experience alongside the participating artists, who are acting as mentors and teachers.

Last week, while working on a mural for Milford Senior High School, Ann McGehrin, remarked several times that she could not believe that she was getting to contribute as much as she was.

"Anne [Jenkins] has been letting me have a lot of practical experience," said McGehrin. "I'm doing the birds and the shore line. She's even putting my name on it. I didn't expect that at all. It's more official and bigger than I ever expected."

Nelson added that all the students have contributed to the project with more than just the mundane duties that most interns are saddled with.

"For example, Evelyn Ota, who is working with the Angeluccis, had a very interesting idea about portraying the history of downtown by using black and white pictures at the stern of the boat and then as it goes towards the bow, the pictures get more modern in scene and color," said Nelson. "I have heard similar stories from all the students and the artists. Everyone is learning something new with this."

The deadline to have the sculptures completed is Monday, April 15. Nelson said that he doesn't see any major delays getting in the way of that.

The next step will be the unveiling and launching party, followed by a couple of coats of weather-resistant sealant before they are placed around town and along the riverwalk over the summer.

Nelson is also already working on three grant applications for phase two of the project, which would add six more sculptures.
"The Delaware Division of the Arts and the Milford Lions Club were so generous and supportive of phase one so we're hoping that they'll both be able to continue with us for phase two," said Nelson. "We're also applying for a Carl Freeman Grant as well."

The timeline for phase two remains loose as Nelson works on the grants and finishes up phase one.

"Phase two is on the horizon," said Nelson. "But, my background in banking won't let me commit to all the details until I know the funding is secure. Also, right now, I am still really excited about sharing the efforts of phase one. I think everyone is going to be pleased and impressed."