When Christina Darby moved to Seaford years ago, she asked people where the art museums were located. “People tended to look at me as if I had three heads,” she wrote in an email.
The Nanticoke River Arts Council, which now operates Gallery 107 in Seaford, was founded by a small group of artists and enthusiasts alike. The gallery opened its doors in October 2011, but the council had its beginnings several years before in 2007.
Darby, the arts council's president, has been around since the very beginning.
“In fact, the very first meeting was at my house back in 2007 – long before we had the physical gallery space,” she wrote.
Darby moved to Seaford from Dallas over 20 years ago and has always had an interest in the arts. In Seaford, she met people with similar interests and the first Nanticoke River Arts Council meeting was held in April 2007.
“I think there was a total of six people ... there was always the dream of one day having a gallery though in reality, I don’t think any of us actually believed it would ever occur.”
To start out, the group kept it simple. Darby and the other members held an Art in the Park and participated in many other local events when they were able to.
One day, an anonymous donor gave the group enough money for them to rent a local storefront.
“The space was beyond horrible – filthy, stacked with all kinds of junk, dark, and dingy,” but after cleaning, painting, and hard work, “Gallery 107 was born.”
The opening reception was celebrated in October 2011.
“We were like little kids before a big party. We wondered if two people might come, 20?” Darby recalled.
Fortunately, the weather made for a beautiful day, Darby said, and more than 150 people attended the opening reception. The gallery could hold 40 people at most, so people waited on the sidewalks to enter.
In January 2012, just a few months after opening, the gallery outgrew its space and the group took this opportunity to rent a larger storefront. They have occupied this space since then.
A place for artists to meet the community
Tony Fox, a woodturner, joined the arts council shortly after the pandemic began. Woodturning is when an artist uses hand tools to craft a shape into wood as it rotates, much like a pottery wheel. Prior to joining the council, he had started a business called The English Woodturner LLC. The pandemic made this challenging, so he began to sell his work on Etsy instead.
Fox said in an email that he enjoys volunteering at the gallery each month and talking to the visitors about the displayed art pieces.
“I have met other member artists and many patrons who have shopped at, and support, Gallery 107. I have been very pleased with the interest in my work, and I am very grateful to those who purchased pieces of my woodturning art,” he wrote.
Gallery 107 does more than make art available to the community: artists themselves are able to connect with people. For Fox, getting involved with the community and making new friends has been worthwhile.
One of the gallery's offerings is classes for children, although these have been temporarily halted due to the pandemic. Apart from the last two years, the arts council has held an art show for children each March. Classes and engagement for children are some of the major goals they have been able to fulfill.
Every other month, artists rotate their work and bring in new pieces. Then, they hold a free reception the following Friday from 5-7 p.m. (The next reception was scheduled for Feb. 4, but after the weekend snowstorm was pushed back to Feb. 11.) Through this and other activities, the group feels they help encourage growth of the downtown economy by providing a fun and educational environment for residents and tourists.
The pandemic has caused hardships for everyone, and Gallery 107 is no exception. However, the gallery is run entirely by volunteers and has been successful with very little governmental assistance, Darby wrote. Though the pandemic has put a temporary stop to some things, the group's future goals are simple: to keep their doors open with a fun, yet educational space for anyone wanting to stop by.
As Darby puts it, “Artists have come and gone, but the core group from the very beginning remains active ... It is and has always been a group effort.”