When Frank Wheaton, Jr. first visited the Corning Museum of Glass in the early 1960's, it caught his ire. On display were many marvelous works of glass—treasures forged of sand, wood, soda ash, and silica that represented the dawning of the American glass industry. Frank's problem? Those shiny, fragile masterpieces were being exhibited in New York and not where they were birthed: New Jersey.
As the grandson of glass magnate Dr. Theodore Corson Wheaton—whose glass pharmaceutical bottles were instrumental in giving rise to the Millville glass monarchy of Wheaton USA—Frank claimed his birthright and created the WheatonArts and Cultural Center. Sprawling across 65 wooded acres, WheatonArts features a fully functioning glass studio with daily demonstrations of glassblowing wizardry; artist studios where craftsmen branch out into pottery and woodworking. The jewel of the WheatonArts retreat, and the fulfillment of Frank Wheaton's dream to usurp New York, is the [Museum of American Glass(http://www.wheatonarts.org/museumamericanglass). The magnum opus of luminescence charters the history of the medium from its brittle infancy to its latest mutations. The circulating collection typically includes up to 7,000 objects, ranging from early American bottles and mason jars, clever Art Nouveau creations, and stunning works from Dale Chihuly and other contemporary glass-working artists.
The Biggs Museum of American Art showcases late founder Sewell C. Biggs's impressive collection that focuses on the evolution of American and especially Mid-Atlantic art from the 18th century up to the present. Steal some time inside the museum's 18 intimate galleries and peruse the permanent collection’s early American furniture, regional silver, and sculptures needled by the famously opposable-thumbed Hiram Powers. Although admission is free, the Biggs Museum fills a bustling calendar with programs such as art classes and kids’ activities that members can enjoy at a discount, along with events such as the annual member appreciation breakfast. With a rotating cast of exhibitions, current offerings include the Award Winners XI exhibition running through October 23, 2011, which displays works by the Individual Artist fellows of the Delaware Division of the Arts. The upcoming Delaware By Hand: Masters Competition exhibition, on display from November 4, 2011 to February 19, 2012, features contemporary work chosen by a panel of judges and presented in tandem with an array of public programs, art sales, and grassroots movements to line public spaces with paint-spewing fire hydrants.
Imaginative play and exploration blossom in the natural world of Camden Children's Garden, where families encounter 20 gardens, educational exhibits, and rides. Inside the 4-acre horticultural playground, visitors walk among an imagined version of Ben Franklin's workshop and spot monarchs and black swallows inside the tropical environment of the butterfly house. Outside, an apatosaurus looms over the dinosaur garden, watching as mini archeologists uncover dino bones and the broken lamp he hid from his mother 80 million years ago.
It's a child's paradise in the Garden State Discovery Museum, where pint-size patrons can climb up rock walls, cavort with wildlife, and imagine themselves as vets, doctors, and news anchors in hands-on exhibits. Red-eared turtles lounge in the wildlife area, inviting kids to gaze upon their slimy shells, and science displays teach guests about gravity, lava, and light.
Howard Pyle's unexpected death in 1912 brought a group of artists, entrepreneurs, and businessmen together to grieve their friend. They couldn't let the artist's passion for teaching and illustration disappear as quickly as he had; so, they decided to form the Wilmington Society of Fine Arts with the sole purpose of preserving his legacy. They gathered funds from locals who felt just as strongly as they did—family members, friends, students, fans—and purchased approximately 100 pieces of his artwork.
Little did they know that, with these 100 pieces, they were starting something greater than a memorial for a good friend. The Wilmington Society of Fine Arts would, over time, add more and more artwork to its collection, growing into an 80,000-square-foot space and out of its original name. The Delaware Art Museum, as its called today, now counts more than 12,000 works of art as part of its collection. Permanent features showcase British pre-Raphaelites, the urban landscapes of John Sloan, modern American art, and, of course, Howard Pyle. The masterpieces don't stop when visitors venture outside—the Copeland Sculpture Garden adorns its lush natural scenery with nine works from the museum's permanent collection, along with a massive outdoor labyrinth.
The area’s only living history museum with a focus on the New Republic Era from 1790 to 1830, Greenbank Mills and Philips Farm pulls the wool away from visitors’ eyes to reveal the development of grain and textile milling in America. Two breeds of sheep, leicester longwools and delane merinos, call Greenbank home, and visitors can follow sheepish locks from shearing through dyeing, as textile transmogrifiers spin them into gossamer strands destined for warm winter shawls and giant webs designed to ensnare skateboarders. Or guests can delve into Greenbank's 300-year history as a working mill by grinding grain by hand into floury heaps of summer snow.