Ideal for artists Eastern Shore's variety makes it a paradise for painters


When she took over the presidency of the Art League of Ocean City, Arlene Advocat was amazed to find so many professional and semiprofessional artists among the membership -- about 100, in all.

Eventually, she realized that Worcester County, with its seashore and its grain fields, its waterfowl and its shore birds, its rustic workboats and its glittery amusement parks, is as much a lure for the artist as the vacationer.

"It's a nice place to paint. We draw from so many people who retire here and people who like to paint the Shore," she said.

Accustomed to its role as a recreational center, Ocean City has had a little trouble introducing fun-loving vacationers, used to buying gaudy trinkets in boardwalk stores, to its new, emerging role as a center for the arts on the Eastern Shore.

"People come in here and say, 'Oh, I didn't know you were here,' " Ms. Advocat said.

A major renovation this past spring on the Art League's building on 94th Street (near the water tower) should help visitors recognize this as a top-notch art gallery with working professional artists, many of whom have best of show awards from art competitions all over the country.

You will find a variety of subjects covered in paintings at the Art League gallery, but, not surprisingly, Eastern Shore land and seascapes, birds and nature are a favorite of its artists, Ms. Advocat said.

The gallery is open Thursdays to Sundays, year-round, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Every month you'll find different artwork on display. The October exhibit is particularly interesting since it is the league's Award Winners Invitational, featuring artists whose works have won awards throughout the year.

The public can meet the artists at an evening reception Friday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the league's gallery.

The November exhibit will feature a one-woman show by oil painter Helene English. Starting Dec. 9, members will hold their annual Holiday Exhibition through December. Artwork in all the exhibits is for sale.

The exhibitions are funded in part by an annual pig roast, which this year will be held from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. next Sunday. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at door. For information, call 289-8814.

If you think you'll pay a bundle for artwork at the beach, take a look inside the Art League's gallery. Paintings begin as low as $100, and the Artist's Coop, in a corner of the gallery, has items for as little as $5.

Another art league is in nearby Rehoboth. The Rehoboth Art League will begin its "Holiday Selections: Gifts by Artists" exhibit Friday. Exhibit hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays to Fridays, and the show runs through Nov. 8.

The public is invited free of charge to attend an opening reception Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Homestead Mansion, a 1743 structure north of Rehoboth Beach in Henlopen Acres that is now used by the league for exhibits.

The league will hold its annual Christmas Arts and Crafts Show on Nov. 9 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Homestead. Admission to this show is $1.

If you're like Joseph Leonard Kroart and think that "fine art should be fun; it shouldn't be stuffy or sterile," then step off the boardwalk at Second Street and into his Ocean Gallery-World Fine Art Center.

Open from 10 a.m. to midnight on weekends and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays during the fall, the structure is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as holding more fine art per square inch than any other gallery in the world. The art, which includes original oil paintings and prints from all over the world, is priced from 99 cents to $660,000.

"It's free admission to a spectacle," Mr. Kroart says of his business.

Mr. Kroart, who is known to promote unknown artists, carried the works of Paul Deremigis, now known as the Pride artist for his numerous paintings of the Pride of Baltimore tall ships, back when he was a struggling artist.

Not only is there a wealth of artistic talent on display at area galleries throughout the year, but the beach has also drawn talented musicians, actors and actresses, who often start up or wind down their careers in summer and holiday theatrical productions at the ocean.

Over the Thanksgiving weekend, Parker Productions, which has produced theatrical shows at the beach for 15 years, will present "Swing, Swing, Swing and All Them Other Things," an 80-minute musical review that covers different American musical styles from opera to rap.

Bill and Sue Wills, who run the production company, will also put on a children's matinee that weekend. Both shows will be held in the Delaware Room of the Carousel Hotel, where the Willses also put on Broadway performances and children's plays throughout the summer.

Interested people should contact the Willses at (800) 388-9793 or locally, 289-3122, for information on times of shows. Seating is limited, so you should reserve tickets.

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