The Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts was started in 1912 to honor the memory of illustrator and novelist Howard Pyle, a Wilmington native who died suddenly while studying in Italy in 1911. Twenty-three years later, the family of eminent Wilmington industrialist Samuel Bancroft Jr. donated his extraordinary collection of British Pre-Raphaelite works and archival documents to the Society, along with a parcel of 11 acres of land, with the provision that a museum be built to house Bancroft’s collection. Three years after that, in 1938, the Delaware Art Center opened its doors (it retained the “Art Center” appellation until gaining accreditation by the American Association of Museums in 1972.) The museum was further helped along, beginning in 1961, by Helen Farr Sloan, widow of painter John French Sloan; Mrs. Sloan’s efforts grew the museum’s collection by some 5,000 works.
Today, the Delaware Art Museum holds some 12,000 works; particular concentrations, aside from the British Pre-Raphaelites and much of John Sloan’s collected works, include American illustration and 19th century American art. Outside, on the museum’s grounds, visitors can stroll through the nine-piece Copeland Sculpture Garden, which features a labyrinth made of stones set in the floor of an old reservoir. The museum offers a plethora of classes and instructional workshops for both adults and children, and sponsors a self-guided Holiday House Tour each December. (JM)
Delaware Art Museum Information
- Public Transportation: Fair (a 4-minute walk from DART bus 10 at Delaware Avenue/Woodlawn Avenue)
- Handicapped Accessibility: Good
- Hours: Wednesday–Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sunday Noon–4 p.m.; Closed Mondays, Tuesdays, and major holidays
- Admission: $12 Adults; $10 Seniors (60+); $6 Students (w/ID) and youth (ages 7-18); Free for Children (6 and under) and members; and $25 for families (up to 2 adults and 4 youth)
- Free Day: Admission to the Museum is free to all visitors every Sunday
- Tour: Docent-led tours are free with admission, and are available every Saturday and Sunday at 1 p.m. (Highlights Tour) and 2 p.m. (Exhibition Tour)
- Group Tours: Guided tours are offered for groups of 20 or more ($10 Adults; $8 Seniors; $5 College Students) and last approximately one hour. Tours are available Tuesday from 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m.; Wednesday–Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; and Sunday Noon–4 p.m. Reservations should be made at least four weeks in advance
- Membership: Individual membership starts at $50 (10% discount for seniors 60+). Benefits are tiered with every member receiving free admission to the Delaware Art Museum and the Copeland Sculpture Garden; a 10% discount at the Museum Store and DelART café; invitations to special Members-only travel opportunities; invitations and discounted tickets to the Members’ Preview parties; discounts on Studio Art Classes and Workshops; a subscription to the Museum’s Members Newsletter; and advance notice and discounts on Museum concerts, lectures, artist demonstrations, and other events
- Other Benefits: At the Friend level ($125–$249) members receive reciprocal membership at 30 other museums; 2 free tickets to each Members’ Preview party; and 2 free Delaware Art Museum guest passes. At the Benefactor level ($500–$1,499) members receive an invitation to the annual Sneak Peek event with the Executive Director; and discounts on renting Museum facilities for weddings, parties, or business meetings.