News Column

Maritime Museum plans splashy opening

June 11, 2014

By Rob Hedelt, The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg, Va.

June 12--DELTAVILLE -- One morning earlier this week, it was hard to judge who was most excited inside this risen-from-the-ashes Middle Peninsula museum.

In one corner was Deltaville Maritime Museum Curator Raynell Smith. She accurately predicted, one day after the museum's former building burned to the ground in July 2012, that it would be back, bigger and better than ever.

In another was Bill Powell, a contractor and museum volunteer who helped head up a massive effort of paid and volunteer labor to replace the destroyed museum--once a private home--with a large, airy and historically designed facility that joins another group of new facilities on the property.

Finally, along the museum's far wall, steadily hanging 58 paintings, stood Richmond-area artist John Barber. His exhibit, "John Barber'sChesapeake: 50 Years of Maritime Art," is the marquee attraction that will open Saturday in tandem with the new museum building. The exhibit will then run through the middle of October.

The trio were excited that Thursday and Friday night receptions this week will combine with Saturday's opening to bring the new museum to life.

"It feels a little bit like Christmas!" said Smith, looking around the room at the Barber originals. The show is easily the largest the well-known painter of maritime subjects has ever had.

Smith noted that 22 years ago, a much smaller exhibit of Barber paintings--typically featuring the watercraft, people, waterfronts and navigation lanes of the Chesapeake Bay region--drew 42,000 visitors during its run at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md.

"We may not quite match that number, but we think this exhibit will bring many, many people to see this art that's such a historical treasure," said Smith.

She said the exhibit, made up of paintings loaned to the museum from private owners, is a godsend to the museum for several reasons.

First, it provides a high-profile, once-in-a-lifetime attraction to lure many visitors to the new facility, which is built in the architectural style of a former hotel not far away at Stingray Point.

"Having it in place also gives us months to plan and prepare the exhibits that will go in here to follow this in October and beyond," she said.

Barber said he's thrilled to have his exhibit coinciding with the opening of the museum.

"It's a wonderful opportunity for me to show my paintings to so many people, especially those of Deltaville, Middlesex County, the Northern Neck and so many other places where I've spent time and captured images for my paintings over the years," said the artist.

He has had a home and moored boats over the years in the region.

Barber said that looking over the original paintings--most he hasn't seen himself for years--was an interesting experience.

"On the one hand, I'm proud to have done this large body of work," he said. He joked that the other feeling it gave him was "one of feeling old, reminding me just how long I've been doing this."

The artist, who was enjoying a restful moment of fishing when I reached him after the painting-hanging was complete, noted that he's got a real, lasting connection to each painting, as if they were his children.

"Some of those children were difficult to create," he noted, saying there were times he'd try for days or weeks to get started on certain paintings, only to need to scrape off paint and start again.

"But somehow, the connection to those paintings we could call 'troubled children' are the ones that are the strongest, for they took more of an effort to finish," he said.

Duanne Hawkins, who is heading up the Barber exhibition committee for the Deltaville museum, said after Barber chose the paintings he wanted to include, she and others got in touch with owners to see if they would be willing to loan them.

"We asked 60 people and got positive responses from 58. That's not bad," she said, noting that the oil paintings have been rolling in from Virginia, Maryland, Connecticut, South Carolina and elsewhere.

Especially noteworthy paintings on display in the Barber exhibit include those he did to benefit the museum: "F.D. Crockett and Steamer Piankatank off Stingray Point," from which prints were sold, and the "The Schooner Maggie off Stingray Point," which he's donated as a prize for a raffle that will be drawn at the end of the exhibit's run.

Other exhibits to come--or already existing in some form in the nooks and corners of the new museum building--include a half-scale Chesapeake Bay deadrise fishing boat, displays on historic buildings and the Civil War in Middlesex, boat-building and the Native American settlements and history.

Rob Hedelt: 540/374-5415


WHAT: Exhibit of nearly 60 paintings of the maritime artist known for capturing the different vessels, places and people who worked and enjoyed the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

WHEN: Kicks off Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and then daily for those hours through October.

WHERE: Deltaville Maritime Museum and Holly Point Nature Park is located in 287 Jackson Creek Road in Deltaville, about 90 miles from Fredericksburg.

COST: Admission to the Barber Exhibition and the Museum exhibits is $15 per person and free to members. Annual museum memberships are $15, family memberships are $25.

FOR MORE INFO: Go online to or call the museum office at 804/776-7200.


(c)2014 The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, Va.)

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Source: Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg, VA)

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