A beautiful home for Art in Salisbury

A visit to Salisbury’s impressive downtown reveals a new gem to an old student

By Tom Maglio
Posted 11/6/23

“You can’t go home again.” It’s my favorite Thomas Wolfe novel, and a statement whose truth resonates with me all the time. I live near my hometown, I see my parents every …

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A beautiful home for Art in Salisbury

A visit to Salisbury’s impressive downtown reveals a new gem to an old student


“You can’t go home again.” It’s my favorite Thomas Wolfe novel, and a statement whose truth resonates with me all the time. I live near my hometown, I see my parents every day, and I retrace old stomping grounds a few times every year. I’ve been told how lucky I am to have made a life so close to my roots, and I feel it. But Wolfe was right, faces change, storefronts come and go, and strangers will tread paths you could once walk down blindfolded. Your mother’s kitchen will never smell quite like it did when you were a kid, and places that had a gleam of grandeur in your youth will lack a certain luster once you’re old enough to check for dust and cracks in the paint.

This sentiment was on my mind as I spent the day in Salisbury last Thursday for work, using the day as an excuse to walk down memory lane. A lot has changed in the decade-plus since I called Salisbury home. My now-wife’s old workplace is no longer open, Outten’s is sporting a new logo, and the mall has changed from my college days. The obvious spot I’ve kept abreast of is the burgeoning downtown scene. It’s not news to anyone that the city’s downtown has transformed into a fantastic hub of shops, eateries and attractions.

I think it’s easy to dismiss the changes that come with crossing thresholds from occupant to visitor. Usually when we mark a change in an old beloved place, the implication is that it’s for the worst. No one could levy this complaint at Downtown Salisbury, however. Our group would often find ourselves at Market Street Inn for wings or Roadie Joe’s for a pub crawl, but outside of that and the occasional panicked run to DiCarlo to print an assignment for class, it felt like there was little for a 22-year-old there. That has changed so much over the past decade.

Much ink has been spilled over the downtown, so I’ll praise just one particular spot, one that was always beloved to me. And upon my discovery of its change, my heart swelled with pride and an unexpected wistfulness: not for what it was—but that it had changed for the better, and I could only now experience it as an observer.

See, when I was in college, I was asked to show at the Downtown Salisbury Art Space. As a graphic designer, you never really expect to hang work on a gallery wall, but they were having an exhibit on digital illustration. A friend was interning there, someone dropped out, he knew a guy, I was the guy, etc. Next thing I knew, I was in an actual art gallery. That show led to the meeting of a dear friend and an absolute talent of an artist, still a very precious memory to me. This was on my mind as I wandered in last Thursday, and I was charmed to find the modest Art Space still as lovely a space as it had always been. After a tour around the exhibit (plenty of digital illustrations there, being much more commonplace than in my day), someone asked me if I had seen the new Salisbury University Art Gallery upstairs (one of three locations, townwide). I had not.

That’s what this column is about, folks. The Salisbury University Art Gallery (SUAG) upstairs took my breath away and filled me with envy of current art students in the area. As I made my way through a beautifully curated space, bright displays and an interesting installation treated me to some spectacular pieces of work. The current exhibit was “Release,” and it lived up to its name. Saturated, creative pieces engaged my eye and mind for the better part of a half hour, and it was hard not to show wonderment on my face. I kept thinking to myself “if only this was here when I was.” How differently might I have grown as an art student? How might I have been changed?

Work from Harry Pack, a British artist kept me captivated. Dreamlike and complex, his saturated colorscapes and detailed linework kept me in rapt attention. It begs you to find their wavelength and ride along with them in a way that only art can. Dominik Lupo’s section spoke to me as a designer, and I envied how tight and strong their selections were. Which is not to disparage the others on display: honorable mentions go to the moving installations of Glass Crane and the powerful composition of Lola Panco.

And the gallery itself was a well maintained and crisp venue for the exhibit. The flow of the space made it easy to drift to and fro, and I had to resist a third go-round to make it to my appointments on time. I found myself lingering and managed to take a few complimentary stickers of some of the display pieces on my way out. As I write this, they’re affixed to a place of honor on my desk. As a former student of Salisbury University’s art school, I can’t help but feel a twinge of pride at such a lovely venue, even if, admittedly, I could not have had less to do with it.

It makes me a bit jealous of those who are able to make it a regular part of their week, just to revisit a favorite piece or to see what new exhibit is on display. And I urge you to do the same: Downtown Salisbury is worth a day trip all on its own, but for any art lover, the two galleries make it a necessary stop. I know the next time I’m in Salisbury, I’ll be making another visit.

Wolfe was right, you can’t go home again. But you can always visit and wish well those who have moved in during your absence. Sometimes, they make it an even home better than you could have imagined.

Learn more online for Downtown Salisbury Art Space and Salisbury University Art Gallery Downtown.

Bay to the Beach: Byways is a regular column in which we explore interesting places and projects on the Delmarva Peninsula. Videos and more photos at baytobaynews.com/bay-to-the-beach-byways.

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