(LEWES, Del.) – Art and history come together on a new mural dedicated to and inspired by the fishing industry and a former mayor.

On March 25th, Damon Pla began working to capture the history of Lewes’ Menhaden Fishing Industry in a mural on the side of the Beacon Motel. About 8 weeks and many rain showers later and he’s ready to share it with the town. 

“We kind of peak in in this history and this time and this moment where the light shines over their shoulders, they’re pulling up their first catch of the morning,” Pla describes what his art conveys.

Art and Bloom Chair Jane Ellen Golde says the group has been eying this wall for a mural for about 5 years. 

“Now we have the mural and a lovely plaque and it’s all overlooking Otis Smith Park,” she says. 

Tony Boyd-Heron of the Art and Bloom Steering Committee spear-headed the project. 

“The Menhaden Fishing Industry was part of Lewes’ history in the 1900s,” he explains. “It also charts the history of the owner of the fishing industry, who was Otis Smith.” Smith was the town’s Mayor for 18 years.

The mural is positioned so that it can be seen from Otis Smith Park. With the help of this former mayor, Lewes became one of the largest fishing ports in the country. According to the plaque that was unveiled in front of the completed mural, over 390 million pounds of fish were coming into these ports during 1953 alone. 

Bill Spriggs who actually worked in the Menhaden Industry alongside his father is excited to see a mural that he says depicts what the town stands for. “He came up here in about the 30’s and fished and I fished all these years on his boat until fishing dried up in 1964,” he says. 

Pla says sharing this piece of history with Spriggs and others fills him with gratitude. “I’ve done many murals in my time and I’ve never done anything so historically significant that I take with me when I leave,” he says. 

Pla used an acrylic polymer paint that stands strong against UV rays, that way those who both lived during and are learning about this history can enjoy it for at least the next decade.
The Menhaden Mural has been printed on smaller canvases. They can be purchased within the building it’s painted on at the Peninsula Gallery. Proceeds from these purchases will go towards Art in Bloom. 

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