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Artistic avenues in the mid-Atlantic

Courtesy Delaware Art Museum

At the Fun Department, thinking outside the box is a job requirement. The Newark, Del., company specializes in avant-garde team building.

So when “Master of Fun” Nate Measley wants an event venue that breaks the mold, he looks to the Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts (DCCA) on the Wilmington riverfront.

In a cultural landscape dominated by traditional art, DCCA bucks the trend. Not only are its exhibitions thought-provoking, the space it occupies is remarkable. The old riverfront warehouse where Harlan and Hollingsworth once built railroad cars emits an air of industrial chic.

“We like it because it’s unique and creative,” Measley said.

Many of the region’s museums claim a distinctive atmosphere. Collectively, they are a diverse bunch. From ships to sculpture to installations, these museums cover the gamut.


Delaware Center for the Contemporary Arts
Wilmington riverfront

A noncollecting museum founded in 1979 to promote the contemporary arts, DCCA each year hosts about 30 annual exhibits. Because the artwork changes every three to six months, planners are assured a fresh backdrop for events.

Located in an area that is undergoing revitalization, DCCA occupies a prime corner. Numerous restaurants are within walking distance, as is the Chase Center, the Russell W. Peterson Wildlife Refuge, the Wilmington Blue Rocks baseball team’s stadium and the Delaware Theatre Company.

Recently, there’s been talk of a riverfront hotel, but accommodations are currently limited to the city’s downtown district.

DCCA’s spacious main lobby, an atrium flanked by seven galleries, is popular for dining, cocktails and dancing; up to 300 people can party there.

Many companies, including the Fun Department, take advantage of a giant board, peppered with movable word magnets. “We have guests create a sentence about their goals or describe what their business is about,” Measley said.

Companies have also held scavenger hunts at DCCA. Each team receives pictures that show only a portion of a displayed artwork. The team members scour the galleries to match the fragment to the rest of that piece of artwork. With access to the river walk, the museum can also be a stop on a riverfront-wide scavenger hunt.

Renting the museum offers double the reward. “When you rent space at the DCCA, you are not just renting space, you’re also supporting a nonprofit, and our education and outreach programs,” said Ashlee Lukoff, DCCA’s director of special events and member services.

302-656-6466, ext. 7103

Delaware Art Museum

Across town is a decidedly different experience. Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the Delaware Art Museum was founded to salute Wilmington illustrator Howard Pyle, who died suddenly in 1911. A prolific artist, Pyle also taught, and N.C. Wyeth — father of Andrew Wyeth — was one of his prized pupils.

The museum, which underwent a massive renovation and expansion in 2005, holds the work of American artists and illustrators, as well as a renowned collection of British Pre-Raphaelite art.
Four public spaces, including an outdoor sculpture garden, double as rental spaces. The Catherine A. Fusco Grand Hall, which holds 200 seated, is the largest indoor area. For intimate events, consider the Chihuly Bridge, where 30 people can dine in the glow of Dale Chihuly’s fanciful glass sculptures.

Organizer Jan Evans of W.L. Gore and Associates chose the museum for a global team meeting because it was “something different.” Three galleries were open during the event.

Although W.L. Gore didn’t play up the museum as a theme, other planners have taken their cue from N.C. Wyeth’s many pirate illustrations or Howard Pyle’s mermaid painting, which students completed after his death.

The museum’s meeting space ranges from two boardrooms to the 168-seat DuPont Auditorium.

“We’ve had several companies hold day meetings followed by dinner,” said Liz Derosier, a general manager for Sodexo, the exclusive caterer. “We pride ourselves on being flexible.”