Wilmington Folk Art Collector Boasts More than 800 Pieces of Art
THE COLLECTOR: Barry Schlecker of Wilmington
WHAT I LIKE: Outsider art, American folk art, signs with words on them
INSPIRATION: The Kentuck Festival of the Arts in Alabama
FAVORITE ARTIST: I won’t say because I love them all. OK, I’ll name one, but only because he is local: Ken Mabrey.
Top Left, Clockwise: Jim Shores of Rome, Ga., created this work from an old tractor seat.; Jim Shores is a self-taught artist who creates art, like this rusty fish, from found objects.; This piece of folk art was purchased in Ajijic, Mexico.
Before he was an impresario, Barry Schlecker was an art lover. In 2010, Schlecker revived the Brandywine Festival of the Arts (formerly known as the Brandywine Arts Festival) because he wanted to help artists and artisans earn a living—and to connect collectors with the talented individuals who make art.
His office in Wilmington is a gallery of sorts, home to more than 800 pieces of folk art, including quilts, signs and portraits of alligators by Jimmie Lee Sudduth, a self-taught artist who mixed paint from dirt and molasses and applied it by hand. At home, Schlecker lives with works by local artists and artisans, including Larry Anderson, Mary Page Evans, Olga Ganoudis and Ken Mabrey.
Schlecker is a regular visitor to the Kentuck Festival of the Arts, where he has formed relationships with Southern artists. In the winter, he vacations in Latin America, where he buys art from the villagers who create it.
He shuns museums because you can’t buy the art. However, you can buy the pieces in Schlecker’s home and office. Don’t be shy. Just ask.
“I like to sell,” he says. “It gives me an excuse to go buy more.”