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(Copied from Community News, March 5, 2004)

Arts & Entertainment
Couples in love with the arts, each other

© 2004 by Paula Shulak

Maxine and Jay Rosenthal

Did you ever notice that often when one partner is devoted to the arts, his or her spouse is also involved?

The saying is that opposites attract, but many couples have mutual interests in the cultural scene.

Sometimes one prefers to be on stage while the other works on sets, props, lights or sound (as is the case with my husband and me).

Sometimes one is an artist and the other is a musician. Occasionally one likes the business end and the other is a dancer or orchestra member.

But whatever the mix, it is not unusual for theater, dance, art and music to be a family affair.

An example of a couple's dedication to the arts was Forrest and Rosemary Hickman. Sadly, Forrest recently died at the age of 74, but his contribution to local theater will live on.

The Hickman's, who live on Kirwood Highway, were familiar faces in almost every theater in the area, either as participants or patrons. They have always been active in the Chapel Street Theater, where they served on the board off and on for more than 25 years.

Neither Rosemary nor Forrest ever appeared on stage (to the best of my knowledge) but whether it was as production manager, set painter, usher, treasurer, sign adjuster, stagehand, maintenance worker or a hundred other jobs out of the limelight, they were always there to help.

Forrest's contributions to Delaware arts are too numerous to mention and our hearts go out to his family in their grief. But we look forward to many more years of active participation by Rosemary.

Another couple who has been active in the arts are Mary Davis and Mike Sultzbach, of Brandywine Hundred. Unfortunately they will be moving to Tucson Arizona soon and will no longer grace the stages at City Theatre, Drama League, and Chapel Street Players, to name just a few.

Mary's successful tenure as director of marketing at the Grand Opera is almost over and Mike will be missed because he has blossomed from actor to director during the last three years.

In the category of "renaissance man", Maxine and Jay Rosenthal, of Brandywine Hundred, epitomize the ideal couple. Jay is not only a docent at the Delaware Art Museum, a past President of City Theatre, an oldies disc jockey, a board member at the Delaware Center for Contemporary Art, the Grand Opera and the Wilmington Music School, to name just a few.

He has also started a business called "Artweb" where he sets up websites for other artists including his wife. Maxine is a flourishing jewelry maker who as some have commented, "...creates small sculptures that people can wear!"

But, the most fascinating thing about them is that they both started their careers as business-oriented employees. Jay was in personnel work and Maxine was an analyst before their retirement so the former professionals at DuPont, are now professionals in the arts.

Both Jay and Maxine set about getting as much education as possible. She took courses in metalsmithing at the University of Delaware, the Maryland Institute College of Art, and Peter Valley Crafts Center in N.J. She has tried painting, clay (especially ceramics and polymer) and textiles but metal work is her specialty. She uses her love for textile patterning in weaving her metalwork jewelry which gives it a unique look.

"I love quilts so one of my jewelry series is really patchwork metal," she said.

After retirement, Jay saw a brochure about a Summer abroad in Italy and decided to study Renaissance art in Sienna. On his return he became a regular at the Delaware Art Museum and soon became a docent. "My interest in the arts was originally in performance. My Dad was a doctor who painted and my Mom was an organist. I played piano and was involved in college backstage and as a campus rep to the Theater Company of Boston.

But no one has ever heard of a starving physician or financial consultant and I wasn't sure I had enough talent to make a living so I went to work for DuPont. For a long time, my avocation became my passion." And, when he was able to retire, he said, "My passion became my life! But I will never treat the arts as just a business."

Maxine describes her switch from business to art as a natural one. "When I was at DuPont I was very active in social action organizations and to relieve some of my stress, I started working with clay polymers. Then I had so much stuff around the house I began to sell my jewelry.”

Analysts look for patterns in data so in business I looked for numbers and in jewelry I looked for design. Jewelry making is a passion for me too and I am intentionally keeping the business aspect at a low level. When I retrained after retiring, I moved from polymer clay to metals; there are more color options in clay but once I made the transition, it was hard to do both and I chose metalwork."

Maxine has a home studio but she also has many shows, some local (Art Museum, Winterthur, PA Guild of Craftsmen) and some out of state (galleries in Florida, Boston and Providence). She has also joined forces with other local artists who call themselves the "X Girls" and they periodically display their works.

The Rosenthals agree that "If you want to become involved in the arts you can do so easily in Delaware.”