The artists above The Murphy

The artists above The Murphy

Locals use space in historic downtown Wilmington theater to work, teach

By David Wright

Mary Beth Thorngren paints in her studio above The Murphy Theatre.

Jeff Becker works on a sculpture of a wolf in his Murphy Theatre studio.

It was Pablo Picasso who once said, “Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

For three different artists, the loft space above The Murphy Theatre in historic downtown Wilmington, former home of the Wilmington Performing Arts Studio, is the perfect space to do just that.

Mary Beth Thorngren said it’s a place where she can share her love of painting with students of all ages.

For Jeff Becker, a sculptor and sculpting instructor, it’s a place where he can carry out his love for recreating the beauty of the wildlife he sees.

It’s a brand new opportunity for Chip Donaldson, a local photographer.

Dan Kennelly, Murphy Theatre volunteer and coordinator of the space, said it’s difficult for artists to find space for art in their home.

“It’s hard with any kind of art to have a room in your home for it,” he said. “It just seems to me there are a lot of people who could use space.”

Thorngren said one of her passions right now is art education.

She teaches Monday night classes for children ages 9 to 13, Tuesday morning and evening classes for private students and Wednesday morning classes for adults.

“As of late, it’s been the teaching that’s rekindled my passion for art,” she said.

Thorngren is originally from Texas, and said she spent time in Germany when her husband was in the Air Force.

Becker has been sculpting since 1984. He said he used to have a studio in downtown Sabina, and he’s taught out of his home as well.

Until recently, Becker said he was teaching at South Street Gallery, but found the space above The Murphy Theatre to be more flexible.

“It’s really nice,” he said. “It has that artsy feel and it’s just real nice.”

Becker said it’s a challenge to balance movement and anatomical realism with his sculptures.

“I try to be accurate, but at the same time I really like showing movement in all the pieces,” he said.

Right now, Becker said his teaching studio is open and flexible.

“I’m accepting new students,” he said. “Children and adults are welcome.”

Donaldson has set up The Photographer’s Wall, a photo gallery.

Donaldson said he used to do photography for a living in the 1980s, then got out of it.

“I got a little burned out,” he said. “Now, communications is my main job … The last four years, I got into (photography) again. I’ve been doing part-time landscape photography.”

He said the space will be a gallery, but he’s looking into doing some basic photography classes.

“It’s gone real well,” Kennelly said. They filled all the space in a month-and-a-half through word of mouth.

To reach Kennelly or ask about the artists above The Murphy Theatre, please call 937-383-1000.

David Wright

David is the editorial assistant for the Wilmington News Journal and a contributing writer for Salt magazine. He likes to focus on adventure, creativity and optimism.

Salt Magazine