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Friday, April 23, 2021

The Art of Reading: Inside Rockford Park’s Only Independent Bookstore

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Jessa Mendez
Jessa Mendez
Jessa Mendez is a Lead Museum Associate at the Delaware Art Museum.

The book store at the Delaware Art Museum. Flag by artist Phil America; table to left curated by Saliym Cooper of Brevity Bookspace.

An independent bookstore within an art museum may seem odd, but for the Delaware Art Museum, it’s the perfect fit. After all, Howard Pyle’s stunning illustrations often accompanied literary works, and our Pre-Raphaelite collection includes pieces inspired by classic texts such as Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet.

 

That’s why the Museum Store has evolved from a gift shop to become your friendly neighborhood bookseller. (Don’t worry; we still have lots of great gifts, too!)

Let’s not forget the literary ladies of the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market is an iconic poem that is still being explored and interpreted, and Pre-Raphaelite model Elizabeth Siddal was a talented poet in her own right.

Store Buyer Jeanie Robino and I have built upon this rich literary foundation to transform the Museum Store into a bookstore unlike any other.

We’re thrilled to provide a variety of literature for adults and children that expands upon the themes in our artwork and offers a variety of perspectives. We also support local authors and artists with our Local Stories section and book signings. Recent guests include Sarah McBride, Marilyn Bauman, and Edward Loper, Jr.

 

In fact, the Museum has become quite the hot spot for writers and bibliophiles. The Wilmington Writers Conference is three years strong and has featured brilliant presenters, including hometown hero Christopher Castellani, Philadelphia poet Yolanda Wisher, and a host of local writers, all passionate about creating a strong regional writing community.

 

This year’s conference was our biggest yet. We welcomed over 100 eager writers, who learned from a stellar roster of session leaders such as Erlina Ortiz, Power Street Theatre Company’s Resident Playwright and Artistic Director, and Saliym Cooper, owner of Brevity Bookspace, who curated a table of his favorite books from the store and gifted store customers a free poem written just for them on the spot.

Jeanie and I have also collaborated with librarian and archivist Rachael DiEleuterio to curate in-store, book-focused exhibitions and merchandise to accompany the Museum’s programming.

We’re also incredibly fortunate to have the Thronson Café in the museum, right next door to our cozy little bookshop. After all, what is a writing space without coffee, tea and snacks? Take advantage of free WiFi, and snag a seat on our beautiful outdoor terrace if you want to read and write al fresco. What more could you ask for?

The Museum Store is committed to growing and serving the city of Wilmington and beyond. Jeanie and I attended BookExpo America for the first time ever this past May and found a supportive nationwide network of industry professionals.

 

The marriage of art and literature was evident in the abundance of striking book covers, beautifully designed special editions and whimsically illustrated children’s books displayed throughout the Javits Center. The symbiotic relationship between writers and artists was in full bloom when illustrator Rafael López interviewed Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, and they discussed how beautifully López’s illustrations complemented Sotomayor’s words in their new children’s book, Just Ask: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You.

We’re so excited to keep pushing the boundaries of what a Museum Store can be. We hope you’ll join us on our journey. Keep up with the Museum Store by following us on Instagram @delartstore, and make sure you stop in on your next visit!

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