Millsboro to pay some of art league’s costs

Following testimony from area residents who praised the Greater Millsboro Art League, the Millsboro Town Council this week agreed to pay utility costs for the building, which is owned by the Town, so art league staff can afford monthly rent and make repairs to the aging building.

The Town will pay the monthly electric bill, which averages $150, and for propane, which costs $5,000 each year. They will revisit the arrangement in October 2020.

The council’s decision was in response to Deb Doucette, director of the art league, who had asked the Town to waive the $550 monthly rent paid to the Town in exchange for upkeep on the building, at 203 Main Street.

She first made the request at the September town council meeting, listing needed upgrades — including a new roof, rehanging of a door, repairs to windows that don’t close and a ramp for the handicapped that meets legal requirements — and returned when the council met on Monday, Oct. 7, bringing several supporters with her.

Town Manager Sheldon Hudson said paying for propane and electric would roughly equal the annual $6,600 annual rent paid to the Town. He said he hadn’t had the opportunity to hear from property owners who might object, but Doucette said that, as a Millsboro property owner herself, she wouldn’t mind the Town helping the art league. She said she would be pleased to poll others.

Art league supporters who spoke at the meeting included teacher Barbara Harris, who also volunteers and serves on the art league board of directors. She read a letter from a Millsboro Middle School student who was at home finishing his homework. The student said he had learned how to shade, create various styles of art and draw human figures by going to the art league.

“I also like volunteering there because people are always nice. I hope the art league will continue in the Millsboro area,” he wrote.

Harris said students scheduled for music classes in school aren’t able to also fit art into their schedules, so they need a place to experience it.

Skip Claiborne of Millsboro, a local and nationally recognized artist, asked for a break in the art league’s rent costs.

“We need a place where we can have art in the community,” he said.

The mother of two children who attend monthly Family Fun Night at the art league said they both play clarinet in the school band and thus can’t register for art classes there.

“This is the only place they can learn new techniques. In the summer, they have gone to camp there. It is very affordable, very convenient. … You really can’t go anywhere for $15 and spend time with the family,” she said, referring to the cost per family for Family Fun Night.

“It’s really great to see some of the things on display at the art league. You really don’t think we have that kind of local talent in the area, but we do,” she said.

A seventh-grade Selbyville Middle School student said she enjoys going there and has learned many skills. Her brother echoed her sentiments and praised instructors for their patience.

Christy Cugno, who works with the Salvation Army’s program for the developmentally disabled, said the agency partners with the art league, whose staff has helped her meet goals.

There are about 20 classes every year for disabled artists, she said, referencing the well-known tagline heard in a TV commercial for a credit card.

“It might cost $5 for a tube of paint and $10 for a paint brush, but the painting is priceless,” she said.

Without the art league, the disabled might lose their ambition and desire to continue creating, she said.

Staff members at the art league have not only been generous with space and time, “but they have been the best cheerleaders we could find,” Cugno said, because they help artists and know when to hug or offer a high-five to celebrate success.

Another Millsboro resident said visitors are sure to visit downtown to admire the planned new town hall, once it’s completed, but asked what else will attract them.

“We don’t have the Georgia House,” he said, referencing the recently-closed restaurant. “The insurance company, as I understand it, is closing up. The party-supply store is closing. Not the movie theater. We don’t have that. So, we have a very limited number of things to bring people to Millsboro,” he said, praising the art league for its broad appeal.

“Art comes in many forms, and the art league promotes that activity. We’ve got to be careful. We are going to have beautiful pavers and sidewalks, and the people driving through the town are really going to appreciate them — but what about the people who live here? … It’s the women, for the most part, who come in and shop. Then, after shopping, they have to have lunch. It’s the foundation, a basis, for people getting together. And the art league is one of those elements,” he said.

By Susan Canfora
Staff Reporter