Downtown space inspires creativity


By John Hamilton - jhamilton@wnewsj.com



From left, Jennifer Steele, Maggie Vance and Jeff Becker are three of the artists who have a studio on West Main Street in Wilmington’s historic downtown.

From left, Jennifer Steele, Maggie Vance and Jeff Becker are three of the artists who have a studio on West Main Street in Wilmington’s historic downtown.


John Hamilton | News Journal

WILMINGTON — Just above the Murphy Theatre on West Main Street, some local residents have found a creative space to work on projects and share with others.

What was once a series of stores in Wilmington’s historic downtown are now spaces where locals artists get to paint, sculpt, and even do taxidermy.

Maggie Vance has occupied studio four — also known as Maggie’s Magic, where she does watercolor paintings — for about a year now. One of the reasons she came?

“My dog started to eat my paint,” she said.

Before Maggie’s Magic, Vance had worked for the federal government and was a substitute teacher.

“I’m a hobbyist,” she said. “I teach and I also do the painting parties. I also do the art festivals, but I’m truly a hobbyist.”

Jennifer Steele with her Once in a Blue Moon Studio does a mixed bag of art including painting and fiber arts. She also has Over the Moon Paint & Party where she hosts art classes, paints and sips, and hosts birthday parties.

Steele has been up there since March 2015 when the rooms were getting turned into studios.

“I did art for a living at the time. I was the art studio coordinator for Nike (Center) and I kind of did art on the side, if I had time,” Steele said. “Then they went private out there and my job was gone. So, in 2016 I started Over the Moon Paint & Party to have more fun and to do this … as a real job.”

Jeff Becker of J.T. Becker Studio does a lot of clay sculpting; he also had his studio early on. Becker has been sculpting and taxidermy since 1984, and he had first taught on South Street.

“I grew up around here so I knew how cool it was and the history of it,” said Becker. “So, when I heard it was being made available, I thought, ‘Oh, wow, that’s pretty cool.”’

One thing they love about the space is that it gives them a place to create their crafts while also giving locals a chance to catch a glimpse of their products.

“I had my craft stuff all over my house,” said Steele. “I didn’t see it as anything besides where I just come, have fun, make art, and maybe someone may come through the door and see it and go, ‘Oh that’s cool.’”

Becker loves being a part of Wilmington’s historic downtown.

“Every little town has a historic district … I love being here at one o’clock in the morning. It’s quiet up here and it’s cool,” said Becker.

Outside of paint and sip parties and private lessons, there have also been opportunities for locals to come together and makes crafts of their own.

Around the holidays during the annual Hometown HoliDazzle, locals and their kids got a chance to make their own decorations.

Earlier this month, the Art Club of the Art House — which meets the first Monday of each month — made festive decor and showcased what local artists had in the former dance studio on West Main Street.

In the future, they’re hoping to hold similar events like in the past, bring in the community more, do classes in their respective studios, and highlight the works of local artists.

“We want more people to come down and see the art,” said Steele. “It would be great to start (an art crawl) — do it once a month and open it up for the community.”

The artists welcome locals to come by, take a peek at the various crafts, or check out the historic downtown building.

From left, Jennifer Steele, Maggie Vance and Jeff Becker are three of the artists who have a studio on West Main Street in Wilmington’s historic downtown.
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2019/01/web1_DSC_0533.jpgFrom left, Jennifer Steele, Maggie Vance and Jeff Becker are three of the artists who have a studio on West Main Street in Wilmington’s historic downtown. John Hamilton | News Journal

By John Hamilton

jhamilton@wnewsj.com

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574

Reach John Hamilton at 937-382-2574