Founder of U.S. Methodism Sought Refuge in Delaware

With the help of some powerful people, Francis Asbury remained concealed and worked to grow his religion from 1,200 to 214,000 members.


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Image courtesy of the Delaware Historical Society
 

Francis Asbury

Methodism was not invented in Delaware, but American Methodists nevertheless owe the state a debt. During the Revolution—when patriots were hostile to the denomination—Delaware was its spider hole. From 1777 to 1780, Francis Asbury, founder of U.S. Methodism, hid in Kent County with sympathizer Thomas White. White, chief justice of Kent’s Court of Common Pleas, lived near Whiteleysburg on the Maryland border. “Judge White’s home, situated in a thick forest, offered relative isolation from large plantations, main roads and waterways—as well as the peaceful seclusion that Asbury found so essential,” wrote Methodist historian Kenneth Loyer. More consequentially, Asbury used his time planning how to grow Methodism from a marginal to a major religious denomination. By the time of his death, the Methodist church had grown from 1,200 to 214,000 members.

The South, in particular, would be fertile ground for its evangelical message. Born in England into a working-class family, Asbury dropped out of school at age 11 to work as a blacksmith’s apprentice. At age 14, he had a religious experience and began attending Methodist meetings with his mother, who hoped he might become archbishop of Canterbury. Methodism began in the 18th century as a branch of England’s state church, with worship services that were more intimate and people-oriented. Led by John Wesley, Methodist preachers were known for enthusiasm and an emphasis on being born again. Abstaining from luxury and doing good works became hallmarks of the movement. Methodists also embraced pacifism and opposed slavery. At age 18, Asbury became a lay preacher, though he continued as a blacksmith. At age 22, Wesley appointed him a traveling preacher. Asbury spent four years riding a circuit in the English Midlands.

Then, in 1771, at a religious meeting in Bristol, Wesley described an urgent need for preachers in Britain’s North American colonies and asked, “Who will go?” Asbury stepped forward. The need was there: When Asbury reported to a senior missionary in New York, he found church discipline lax and the city sinful. (Raised with a deep fear of sin, Asbury tended to be morose and gloomy, with what one Methodist historian called “frequent spells of morbid depression.”) Without asking permission, he borrowed a horse and rode into the countryside, thus making his first circuit. Asbury preached throughout the Mid-Atlantic and later in the South and West. During a 45-year career in America, he traveled an estimated 275,000 miles on horseback.

Methodist histories claim that he preached more than 16,000 sermons—almost one per day. But the 1770s were not a good time to be a Methodist preacher. Methodism was still a branch of England’s state church, which many Colonial settlers had come to America to escape. With independence, that connection became evidence of disloyalty. Pacifism and opposition to slavery also seemed suspicious, particularly in the South, where concepts of manliness presumed a duty to use force and where British forces had encouraged slaves to desert their masters. (Even in peace, the South never embraced these ideas, and they were later dropped from Methodist doctrine.) Wesley didn’t help. “You profess yourselves to be contending for liberty,’” he wrote an American correspondent in 1775. “But it is a vain, empty profession—unless you mean by that threadbare word a liberty from obeying your rightful sovereign.”

In Maryland, Methodist layman Chauncey Clowe tarnished the movement by gathering 300 loyalists and trying to join British forces. (Clowe was captured and hanged.) Preacher Martin Rodda distributed copies of George III’s proclamation of rebellion. Like most preachers sent out from England by Wesley, Rodda eventually fled the country. After 1778, only Asbury remained. “I am determined, by the grace of God, not to leave [the Methodist flock], let the consequences be what may,” he wrote in his journal. Asbury declared his neutrality, but that didn’t satisfy critics. Maryland patriots insisted he take that state’s loyalty oath, which included anti-British language and forbade non-oath-takers to preach. Instead, he fled to Delaware, whose oath merely required that citizens report conspiracies. Asbury arrived at White’s home in December 1777.

For a while, he lived in an outbuilding to which the judge himself carried his meals. Later, Asbury moved into the house. Once, when White was away, the family was surprised by Richard Bassett, a lawyer who often stayed with the family when in the area. Bassett—who would later be Delaware’s 13th governor—noticed Asbury and several local Methodists talking quietly in a side room. Who are they? he asked. “They are gentlemen here on very important business,” responded Mrs. White, evasively. Bassett pressed again. When Mary White finally confessed, a horrified Bassett turned to leave. “You must stay,” she said, though he twice demanded his horse. “They will not hurt you.”

As it turned out, Bassett found Asbury charming, and invited him to visit in Dover. Soon after, Asbury did exactly that—and ended up at tea with Bassett, a local minister and Gov. Caesar Rodney. Bassett, of course, was converted, and Rodney gave Asbury Delaware citizenship, which freed him to travel. What Asbury absorbed from this was the importance of networking, repeated exposure and winning over the woman of the household. After the war, he built a network of circuit riders: young, single men—often more enthusiastic than learned—who would travel and preach full time, living off whatever the laity contributed. Women’s motherly instincts, Asbury knew, would make them protective of such men, and that was the first step in winning over entire families. For that insight, Methodists can thank Delaware, and Mary White.

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Where:
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Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

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Cost: free

Where:
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Telephone: 130-265-66466

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Cost: $25–$45

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
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Website »

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Cost: $10

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Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

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Cost: free

Where:
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Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

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Cost: FREE

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View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

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Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
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View map »


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Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

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Cost: $10

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Cost: 0.00

Where:
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View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

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Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
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View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

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Cost: FREE

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View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design’s Toni & Stuart
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Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
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View map »

More information

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Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
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View map »

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NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

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IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

THE FAR IS NEAR Graham Dougherty & Ruth Ansel January 5 - 31, 2019 Opening reception: January 11  | 7 - 9 PM Graham Dougherty  ”We give shape...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Featuring designer solutions for small interior spaces and backyards, hands-on DIY project workshops and a Succulent Bar, more than 300 exhibitors, and home design celebrities Clint Harp and Matt...

Cost: $10

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street
Exhibition Hall F
Philadelphia, PA  19107
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Sponsor: Philly Home Show
Website »

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Adults learn a craft technique and make a work of art to take home. Wine and refreshments will be available in the café while you create. $15 Members, $20 Non-Members.  Jan 17 Embroidery...

Cost: $15 Members, $20 Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

More information

LEGALLY BLONDE JR. Tickets: $10 All Seats Based on the award-winning Broadway musical and the smash hit motion picture, Legally BlondeThe Musical JR. is a fabulously fun journey of...

Cost: $10.00

Where:
Everett Theatre
47 W. Main Street
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »

More information

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CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

Winter Group Show  A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including paintings, drawings, ceramics, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift Certificates are always...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Bernard Jackson Felch, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 83, was an accomplished water-colorist, sculptor, ceramicist and teacher whose work has been seen in museums, schools, universities,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design’s Toni & Stuart
600 N. Market St.
Wilmington , DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: DCAD
Telephone: 302-622-8000
Contact Name: Susan Couby

More information

Pre-Raphaelite painter and women’s rights campaigner Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827–1891) was an early female participant in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Landscape was Bodichon’s...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

THE FAR IS NEAR Graham Dougherty & Ruth Ansel January 5 - 31, 2019 Opening reception: January 11  | 7 - 9 PM Graham Dougherty  ”We give shape...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

For more than 90 years, the Delaware Art Museum has showcased contemporary craft by artists working locally and throughout the region. The Museum’s first juried Contemporary Crafts Show was...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through discovery, exploration, and hands-on experiences.Ages 2 and up. Visit delart.org for list of books. ...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

Featuring designer solutions for small interior spaces and backyards, hands-on DIY project workshops and a Succulent Bar, more than 300 exhibitors, and home design celebrities Clint Harp and Matt...

Cost: $10

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street
Exhibition Hall F
Philadelphia, PA  19107
View map »


Sponsor: Philly Home Show
Website »

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

CASA of Camden County Presents a Benefit Show with Renowned Illusionist Jason Bishop. Enjoy a night of incredible entertainment with the whole family while supporting the efforts of CASA throughout...

Cost: $25

Where:
Pfleeger Concert Hall, Rowan University
North Campus Drive
Glassboro, NJ  08028
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Sponsor: CASA of Camden County
Telephone: 856-361-7180
Contact Name: Jonathan Cummings
Website »

More information

LEGALLY BLONDE JR. Tickets: $10 All Seats Based on the award-winning Broadway musical and the smash hit motion picture, Legally BlondeThe Musical JR. is a fabulously fun journey of...

Cost: $10.00

Where:
Everett Theatre
47 W. Main Street
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »

More information

“An engaging exploration of what can be achieved by bringing ancient and modern into creative fusion.” – Jazzwise   Experience new sounds from the ancient...

Cost: $30 Members, $35 Non-members, $25 Students

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Winter Group Show  A rotating group show featuring an eclectic mix of artwork including paintings, drawings, ceramics, art glass and jewelry. Custom Framing and Gift Certificates are always...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

CCArts Winter class registrations are open   The Center for the Creative Arts presents its Winter 2019 class and workshop offerings. With over 50 classes and workshops there is...

Cost: 0.00

Where:
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
410 Upper Snuff Mill Row
Hockessin, DE  19736
View map »


Telephone: 302-239-2434
Contact Name: Nicole Schmid
Website »

More information

Sharpen your pencils for the 15th DCAD Drawing Marathon! This full-day festival of figure drawing will feature models in a variety of poses and vignettes.

Cost: $30 in advance or $35 at the door.

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N. Market St. Wilmington, DE 19801
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-622-8000
Contact Name: Randle Reed

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

A SENSE OF PLACE 47°-80° N Bethany Springer January 16 - May 12, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop A Sense of Place 47° - 80°...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

IN BETWEEN THEREShelley Thorstensen November 24, 2018 - March 17, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, December 7 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop For her first solo exhibition in Delaware,...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Bernard Jackson Felch, who passed away in 2008 at the age of 83, was an accomplished water-colorist, sculptor, ceramicist and teacher whose work has been seen in museums, schools, universities,...

Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design’s Toni & Stuart
600 N. Market St.
Wilmington , DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: DCAD
Telephone: 302-622-8000
Contact Name: Susan Couby

More information

Pre-Raphaelite painter and women’s rights campaigner Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon (1827–1891) was an early female participant in the Pre-Raphaelite movement. Landscape was Bodichon’s...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

THE FAR IS NEAR Graham Dougherty & Ruth Ansel January 5 - 31, 2019 Opening reception: January 11  | 7 - 9 PM Graham Dougherty  ”We give shape...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

For more than 90 years, the Delaware Art Museum has showcased contemporary craft by artists working locally and throughout the region. The Museum’s first juried Contemporary Crafts Show was...

Cost: Free for members. Included in Museum admission fee for non-members.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

HALF : HALF A Draper Experiment by Willie Yao January 4 -  February 24, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, February 1 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Featuring designer solutions for small interior spaces and backyards, hands-on DIY project workshops and a Succulent Bar, more than 300 exhibitors, and home design celebrities Clint Harp and Matt...

Cost: $10

Where:
Pennsylvania Convention Center
1101 Arch Street
Exhibition Hall F
Philadelphia, PA  19107
View map »


Sponsor: Philly Home Show
Website »

More information

ORIGINS Rick Rothrock & Stan Smokler January 8 - April 22, 2019 Special Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  5:30 - 7:30 PM Artist Talk | 6:30 PM The Delaware Contemporary...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 130-265-66466

More information

Sharpen your pencils for the 15th DCAD Drawing Marathon! This full-day festival of figure drawing will feature models in a variety of poses and vignettes.

Cost: $30 in advance or $35 at the door.

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N. Market St. Wilmington, DE 19801
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-622-8000
Contact Name: Randle Reed

More information

Nancy Viau - Afternoon With The Author Join the Hockessin Book Shelf and Children's Book Author Nancy Viau on Saturday, January 19th for a Book Reading, Craft, Discussion, and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Hockessin BookShelf
7179 Lancaster Pike
hockessin, DE  19707
View map »


Telephone: 302-235-7665

More information

LEGALLY BLONDE JR. Tickets: $10 All Seats Based on the award-winning Broadway musical and the smash hit motion picture, Legally BlondeThe Musical JR. is a fabulously fun journey of...

Cost: $10.00

Where:
Everett Theatre
47 W. Main Street
Middletown, DE  19709
View map »

More information

The Rocky Horror Picture Show This interactive movie experience combines film and live performers. The cult-classic is a humorous tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the late...

Cost: 9

Where:
Theatre N
235 W. 10th St
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Frankie's Midnight Runners
Telephone: 302-571-4075
Contact Name: Richard
Website »

More information

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