Artistic Safari: The Howard Pyle Studio Group’s Plein Air Adventure

On exhibit October 21, 2023-January 23, 2024

Join us for the Art Loop on Friday, November 3 from 5-7:30 p.m.

Since its founding in 1935, the Howard Pyle Studio Group has played a vital role as a hub for artistic growth and collaboration in the Brandywine Valley, honoring the legacy of American illustrator Howard Pyle. Workshops, classes and events create a supportive environment fostering learning and camaraderie among member artists.

Painting en plein air, or in the open air, offers artists an authentic way to capture nature’s true beauty. The presence of diverse creatures in these landscapes adds depth and interest to the artwork, but they don’t stay still for long!

To overcome this challenge, the museum becomes an invaluable substitute en plein air location for
Studio Group members. Here, carefully recreated natural settings inspire creativity, allowing artists to skillfully depict diverse species on canvas.

About the Artists

My art includes natural and urban landscapes, from the Brandywine Valley and the Southern Appalachian mountains. Whether painting en plein air or the studio, I enjoy combining a variety of natural shapes and elements from nature and other sources. It has been a special pleasure to paint in the Museum of Nature and Science.

Betsy received a BA in Math from the University of Delaware but turned to art shortly thereafter and studied with many local artists. She has been an exhibiting member of the Delaware Foundation for the Visual Arts and is a member of the Studio Group Inc. and the National League of American Pen Women Inc. She has held many offices including president and treasurer.

She has participated in juried shows at Chester County Art Association, Pen Women Biennial Shows, Pen Women National Biennial, Holly Branch of NLAPW in Dover, Biggs Museum of Art in Dover, DE, Delaware Art Museum – as part of the Studio Group Show, and other local venues and received awards.

She specializes in landscapes and portraits.

Painting in the morning or middle of the day has inspired great opportunities each season. Carol continues her impressionistic / expressive style of painting in oil and acrylics. Lovely weather or stormy warnings allow for the changing of the color palette. Carol sets out for en Plein Air invitationals throughout Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.

Beauty of the destinations are reflected in paintings from Chestertown’s – Paint the Town, Brandywine Conservancy, Historic New Castle’s gardens, Bryn Mawr, Kuerner’s Farm, Brandywine River, Laurel Preserve and farmer’s markets. Recently, the artist received an award for ‘Winter Eventide’ in the Artist Magazine’s January 2023 issue. ‘Sunflowers & Blueberries’ was selected as the international cover for the Pen Woman publication.

The artist engages in a series of painting invitationals by: Mid Atlantic Plein Air Painting Association, Historic New Castle Plein Air, Brandywine River Museum, Delaware Museum of Nature & Science, Land Arts Events (Brandywine Conservancy), Chadds Ford Historical Society, Brandywine Valley: Children’s Beach House, Blue Streak, Unionville Arts Gala, Barbara Moore Fine Art Gallery, River Arts in Chestertown, and the Opera House Antiques & Rodney Pratt Framing & Gallery.

A graduate of Moore College of Art and Design, Bachelor of Science, Philadelphia; Graduate credits at University of Delaware and Tyler School of Art; Towson University, Masters of Secondary Education. Former Executive Director for the Cecil County Arts Council and educator for students of all levels. Received accommodations as a Board of Certified Professional Educator. A member of the Howard Pyle Studio Group and the National League of American Pen Women, Diamond State Branch.

I paint because I don’t know how to live without painting. I have been painting ever since I can remember. It is my therapy, my escape, and my world. If I don’t like the world I am in, I can paint a new one for myself. I paint anything; I paint things that connect to me that I feel drawn to – they have a personality, a story, or they just speak to me. I need to capture them on canvas. I am an acrylic painter, but I am always enthusiastic to learn something new. My process is to first make a mess on my canvas, with loads of energy, throwing paint on it and then cleaning it up. While I am cleaning I create my art. I paint with loads of energy and excitement. I do approach the canvas with an idea of what the final painting will look like, but if the painting decides it doesn’t want to go that way I am open to creating a new painting. Some paintings I leave messy. Some paintings I polish. I allow the painting to tell me how it wants to be finished. Every painting is a growth moment for me.

Lithography is my medium.  It is the physical labor of graining the stone, drawing on the stone, and printing to produce an edition of prints that resemble what was drawn, only richer and deeper.

My college education began at Pratt Institute, in Brooklyn, New York, culminating with a BFA from The Maryland Institute, College of Art, in Baltimore, MD, where I studied drawing, painting, and developed into printmaking.   I continued my study of lithography for over 25 years at the Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia, where I now monitor the lithography and etching studios, as well as continue my studies with Tamarind master printer, Peter Haarz.   I am a member of the National League of American Pen Women and the Howard Pyle Studio Group, where I have enjoyed the camaraderie and support of fellow women artists, writers, and musicians.

I love nature and animals and am always looking around me for inspiration. Drawing to me, is about relationships of tones and lines and how they are inked and transfer to beautiful printmaking paper.

Karen Kuhrt is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology with a BFA degree. She studied photography with Minor White and painting with Fred Meyer. Karen is a member of the Howard Pyle Studio and the National League of American Pen Women and has a painting in the Pen Women’s permanent collection in Washington, D.C. Her favorite subject matter is landscape, and painting the gardens at Mt. Cuba is always a treat!

My oil paintings express the play of light and shadow on the architectural forms that make up our towns and cities. Having worked and studied as an architect, I am fascinated by the relationship between our built environment and the landscape. I find inspiration in the unique character of our towns in the Delaware Valley and seek to interpret these views in a colorful perspective.

Chester County artist Kathy Ruck’s paintings reflect a strong sense of composition, color and light. Her attention to detail and skilled media technique draw the viewer into the scene.

Working out of her home studio in Landenberg, PA, Kathy paints the beauty of the surrounding areas of Chester County, PA and northern Delaware. She works primarily in watercolors, but also enjoys pastels, oils and gouache.

“I believe that in today’s hectic world it’s important to fill your home with art that will relax your mind and lift your spirits,” says the artist.

Kathy exhibits her work in local juried art shows, having won several awards for her paintings.  Private collectors and corporations own her paintings. Kathy has been commissioned to create paintings for corporations and institutions including DuPont, PNC Bank, Wilmington University,  Wilmington Flower Market Poster and Yellow Springs Art Show Poster. She is a former president of the Delaware Foundation for the Visual Arts, and a member of the Howard Pyle Studio Group and a signature member of the Philadelphia Watercolor Society.

Roberta is a Delaware representational fine artist who enjoys painting landscape and figurative subjects. She works in studio and in Plein air using a variety of mediums but most often works in oil or pastel.  She was raised by parents who were both artists and can’t remember a time when she didn’t love creating art!

Roberta attended college at the Pratt Manhattan Center, and Long Island University where she studied; Illustration, Art Education and Fine Art. She was also honored to be awarded a full scholarship from the Art Students League of New York where she studied; Life drawing, painting and portraiture.

She has worked in the fields of, Illustration, textile design, advertising and art education. In recent years her primary focus has been creating a body of work that is more representative of her personal feelings, impressions and vision of the world around us. This is strongly influenced by her faith and appreciation for nature. Her work has been featured in numerous shows in the area. She is a member of the Art Students League, the Howard Pyle Studio group, and more recently the Painters Folly Studio group.

Painting for me is a way to express the joy and beauty of the world, using light and color to capture a moment in time. My childhood passion for the outdoors and nature are brought into my paintings. The uplifting feeling that nature provides is expressed in every brush stroke, the warmth of the sun, the cool of the shade, the majesty of the trees and the serenity of the sky. Painting in the studio gives me the opportunity to perfect the techniques that I have studied over the years. But even in the studio, I am drawn to the outdoors, the light and promise of another day.

To learn more about the Howard Pyle Studio Group, visit

Mindbender Mansion

Our next special exhibit opens Saturday, September 30

Enter the wonderfully puzzling world of Mindbender Mansion, an eclectic place full of brainteasers and interactive challenges guaranteed to test the brain power and problem-solving skills of even the most experienced puzzlers.

Guests to this fun and quirky mansion are invited to join the Mindbender Society by gathering hidden clues and secret passwords scattered throughout the various thematic rooms of the house. The clues and passwords are revealed by solving select brainteasers and group challenges.

Visitors are encouraged to think outside the box and collaborate with their fellow mansion guests to meet individual and group challenges, which include manipulating a tilt table, keeping up with T.V. trays on a conveyer belt, and disco hopscotch spelling.

Mindbender Mansion is incredibly engaging for all ages and generations as grandparents, parents, and children learn from each other to solve the 40 brainteasers and five group activities.

Mindbender Mansion is on exhibit September 30, 2023 to May 12, 2024

Mindbender Mansion was produced and is toured by the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, Portland, Oregon, and is sponsored locally by Bank of America.

Be the Astronaut closing soon!

Prepare for lift off and discover what space travel is all about with Be the Astronaut on exhibit through Monday, September 11

The museum is closed to the public September 5-8. Beginning September 9, our hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Experience the wonders of space and plan a space mission, learn about the technology and math skills required to be an astronaut, and fly spaceships, pilot landers and drive rovers in this exciting exhibit. The exhibit includes interactive stations that encourage guests to learn basic concepts about our solar system, space travel, gravity and more.

Be the Astronaut puts guests in the pilot’s seat of a spaceship while providing a birds-eye view of real astronaut pretraining with the use of touch screen stations, artifacts and interactive simulator pods built to look like space capsules.

The exhibit includes:

Navigation Interactive Stations, where visitors can engage in mission planning as well as learn about orbits and Newton’s laws, gravity, etc.
Science Interactive Stations, where visitors can explore the equipment and technology needed to accomplish space travel missions and learn about rockets, space suits and space craft.
Flying Capsules, a dramatic big screen experience with pilot and co-pilot adjustable seating and controls. Visitors can launch rockets and land rovers depending on their given mission requirements.

Produced by Eureka Exhibits and designed by NASA engineers, Be the Astronaut is on exhibit from June 24-September 11. Entry into the exhibit is included with museum membership or general admission.

This is What a Scientist Looks Like

Outdoor Banner exhibit from the IF/THEN® Collection

This Is What A Scientist Looks Like, a new outdoor banner exhibit featuring 16 women in STEM, is now on display. The banners highlight several IF/THEN® Ambassadors along with local scientists and engineers, including our own Director of Collections and Curator of Mollusks Liz Shea, Ph.D., Kadine Mohomed of W. L. Gore & Associates, Jen Sheran of DuPont, marine scientist Jessica Myers, and Jacqueline Means, Founder of the Wilmington Urban STEM Initiative. The exhibit is funded through a grant awarded by the Association of Science and Technology Centers with support from Lyda Hill Philanthropies and the IF/THEN Initiative and sponsored locally by Bank of America.

Dana Bolles

Spaceflight Engineer

Wears many hats at a space agency, from engineering to communicating about the search for life beyond Earth.

Dr. Jaye Gardiner

Illustrator and Cancer Biologist

Studies the biology behind cancer and uses comics/trading cards to show that science is for everyone.

Sydney Hamilton

Aerospace Engineer & Engineering Manager

Leads a team of structural analysts who support multiple aerospace programs for space crafts and commercial aircraft.

Dr. Ronda Hamm

Entomologist and Educator

Develops and implements strategies and relationships that promote STEM for future generations while showing people that insects are not scary.

Dr. Lataisia C. Jones

Neuroscientist, Advocate and STEM Educator

Advocates for STEM diversity while spreading the joy of studying the brain.

Dr. M. Nia Madison

Biomedical Scientist, Director of HIV Research, Professor, CEO and Author

Engages youth in STEAM community outreach programming through her nonprofit and instructs undergraduate students in microbiology and sustainability practices.

Jacqueline Means

The STEM Queen

Uses her passion for and love of STEM to teach young girls fun, hands-on experiments and empower them to go into the field.

Dr. Kadine Mohomed

Core Technology Scientist

Applies her expertise in materials characterization to understand and promote innovation that enhances performance in products of high societal value.

Dr. Burcin Mutlu-Pakdil


Uses the world’s largest telescopes to understand the nature of dark matter and galaxy formation by studying the smallest galaxies.

Jess Myers, M.S.

Marine Scientist

Advocates for healthy oceans and marine life through art, public outreach, and her research on plastic pollution.

Dr. Elizabeth Shea

Director of Collections & Curator of Mollusks

Expands, sustains and uses natural history collections to understand cephalopod biodiversity.

Jen Sheran

Technical Training Program Manager

Creates and implements solutions to keep a global community of engineers in the semiconductor industry on the leading edge of technology.

Dr. Helen Tran

Molecular Architect and Polymer Chemist

Works to make future plastics and electronic products fully degradable.

Dr. Danielle Twum

Cancer Immunologist and Translational Scientist Liaison

Conducts research in oncology and clinical immunology.

Sarah A. Wilson

Mechanical Engineer

Intersects engineering with personal passions like skiing and gardening to make a difference in the health and safety of people and the planet.

The du Pont Trophy

On exhibit in the Community Room: the du Pont Trophy original paintings by artist Lauren J. Sweeney

For more than 50 years, the museum has presented the du Pont Trophy Award to the “overall outstanding exhibit” entered at shell shows around the country. The award honors exceptional citizen scientists having a passion for shells, shell collecting, and the natural history of mollusks.

For the majority of its history, the du Pont Trophy was a simple engraved plaque. As part of the Museum’s 40th anniversary celebration in 2012, Director of Collections and Curator of Mollusks, Liz Shea, Ph.D. re-imagined the award to celebrate the variety in the museum’s vast collection of more than two million mollusks. She turned to long-time museum supporter and local artist, Lauren J. Sweeney, Ph.D. to make this vision a reality. The result is an original watercolor highlighting a different shell from the collection each year. A framed limited-edition, signed print of this commission is presented to the du Pont Trophy winners.

Lauren Sweeney’s paintings are informed by a lifetime of scientific observation. Originally a biologist who focused her talents on research, teaching, and scientific illustrations, Lauren is now a full-time artist. Her attention to detail brings the shape, color, texture, and pattern of her subjects into sharp focus. Lauren has exhibited her work in the greater Philadelphia area, including the Sketch Club, Gallery Twenty Two, and the Main Line Art Center.

For more information about the artist, visit

The original paintings, currently on exhibit, are for sale for $600 to benefit the museum’s collections.

2023 duPont Trophy

Lambis lambis

The 2023 du Pont Trophy features the changing morphology of Lambis lambis. These dramatically different stages are symbolic of the major metamorphosis the museum experienced over the past few years. The Delaware Museum of Nature and Science reopened to the public in May 2022 with completely renovated exhibit spaces.

2022 duPont Trophy

Melongena corona

This painting depicts the marine snail Melongena corona as positioned on Curator of Mollusks Elizabeth Shea, Ph.D.’s kitchen table. The specimen (and setting) was chosen in recognition of the chaotic year ushered in by COVID.


2020 du Pont Trophy

Spirula spirula

This painting features the internal shell of Spirula spirula, a deep sea cephalopod commonly referred to as ram’s horn squid. They are more often collected as shells than as live organisms. S. spirula was selected for the painting in recognition of research projects conducted by Widener University students.

2019 du Pont Trophy

Tellina radiata

This specimen of Tellina radiata, a bivalve mollusk commonly known as the Sunrise Tellin, is from the Alison Bradford collection, bequeathed to the museum by Alison Bradford, a longtime volunteer and member of the Board of Trustees. Bradford had been at the museum for over 30 years. She passed away in the summer of 2018 and transferred her collection of more than 1,000 shells to the museum, most collected in Gasparilla Island, Florida, where she owned a home. 

2018 du Pont Trophy

Haliotis fulgens Philippi

The pearlescent marine sea snail abalone is the inspiration for the 2018 du Pont Trophy, featuring two specimens of the green abalone Haliotis fulgens Philippi, 1845 (DMNH 10958). These specimens have a beautiful nacreous layer and were selected by the museum’s first Mollusk Curator, R. Tucker Abbott, for illustration in the second edition of American Seashells. Published in 1974, the book is an essential resource for shell lovers and an important part of the museum’s history.


2017 du Pont Trophy

Liguus crenatus variation

The 2017 du Pont trophy was based on shells owned by renowned Delaware illustrator Frank Schoonover, a gift from one of his most well-known clients, Irénée du Pont, owner of Granogue in Delaware and the fabled Xanadu mansion in Cuba, where the shells were collected. The shells were donated to the museum in December 2015 by Schoonover’s grandson John Schoonover.

2016 du Pont Trophy

Anodonta imbecilis from Florida

This year’s shell is a group of freshwater bivalves, commonly known as Paper Pondshells, collected in Lake Talquin, Florida in 1954. Freshwater bivalves are the focus of a recent National Science Foundation grant that will help the museum share its collections on the web.

2015 du Pont Trophy

Leporicypraea mappa variation

The museum’s mollusk collection contains over 250,000 boxes (or “lots”) of shells, making it one of the largest collections in North America. The Map Cowries in this painting highlight the depth of the museum’s holdings and the variation found within a single species.

2014 du Pont Trophy

Spondylus with data label

New collections come into the museum from many sources, often accompanied by old data labels. This specimen of Thorny Oyster is a beautiful and ornate U.S. species, complete with an interesting original data card.

2013 du Pont Trophy

Scaphella junonia on sand

Finding a Junonia on the beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast is cause for celebration. This composition highlights the popular marine snail resting on a background of sand collected from Boca Grande, Florida by long-time museum trustee and volunteer Alison Bradford.


2012 du Pont Trophy

Festilyria duponti holotype

The subject of the first watercolor is Festilyria duponti, a shell named by Clifton Stokes Weaver in honor of Delaware Museum of Natural History founder, John E. du Pont. The background is a representation of a technical book on shells, co-authored by du Pont and Weaver.


Vast moving waters give life to our blue planet. Oceans cover two-thirds of our planet and include the largest unexplored areas on Earth. They also affect life here on land. Like the rainforests, oceans produce oxygen for the world and regulate our climates. Protecting them is vital for our survival.

Beneath the water’s surface, mountains, valleys, and plains shape a variety of ecosystems: sunny and shallow coastal waters, vast expanses of dimly lit mid-water, and the inky darkness of the deepest sea, all providing habitats for diverse marine life. World Ocean Day is designated to bring awareness to the importance of our oceans and the need to protect them. At the Delaware Museum of Nature and Science, guests may explore three different marine ecosystems — shallow, mid-water, and deep sea — today and every day.


Sunlight fades away in the ocean’s twilight realm

The mid-water exhibit is generously sponsored in honor of Leila Saavalinen Steele

Most of the world’s oceans are mid-water, located between the surface shallows and the seafloor far below. Here, in the largest expanse of unexplored space left on Earth, immense whales and giant squid swim alongside fishes and invertebrates of all sizes.

The Mid-Water Ocean exhibit includes the juvenile humpback whale skull collected by DelMNS staff in 2018.
The whale exhibit is sponsored by M&T Bank | Wilmington Trust

Deep in the mid-water, light is scarce, temperatures are low, and pressure is high. Sea life has found survival strategies for this harsh environment.

The Nightly Commute: Every night as the sun sets, many ocean residents commute up towards surface waters in search of food. As the sun rises, they return to deeper waters, where darkness helps them hide from predators. This behavior, called diel vertical migration, varies depending on the species and its life stage. Some organisms travel long distances while others stay mostly at one depth.

Deep-Sea Dive

Take the plunge into an ocean canyon expedition

The ocean’s canyons are deep and dramatic, just like those on land. Marine scientists explore these mysterious realms with remotely operated vehicles or ROVs – small submersible vessels launched from research ships.

Scientists and engineers remain on the ship, guiding the ROV’s descent to roam the canyon floor. As the vessel’s cameras record the trip, engineers use its robotic arms to collect specimens of sea life.

These dives provide valuable glimpses into our vast and unexplored oceans.

Ocean canyons are narrow valleys with steep sides cut into the edges of continents under oceans. They can be several thousand meters deep. This video shows a dive into Kinlan Canyon, located in the Atlantic Ocean about 600 kilometers (375 miles) east of New York City.

Museum scientists collected these specimens from canyons in the North Atlantic using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV). The jars were hand-blown by At-Mar Glass in Kennett Square, PA. Each jar has a glass armature created specifically to hold each specimen.

Shallow Water

The ocean’s shallow, clear waters are full of life.

Around the edges of continents, the oceans are shallow and sunlight can reach down to the seafloor. Fishes, crustaceans, and many other organisms browse on submerged grasses and swim among kelp forests.

In warm, shallow seas, tiny coral polyps make stony skeletons that gradually build up into immense structures. These coral reefs overflow with diverse plant and animal life.

Coral Reef

One of the most frequent questions asked about our exhibits: “Is the coral reef staying?”

It is! The museum’s popular coral reef exhibit is getting a new look, with updated and refurbished elements. The scene is designed to look like Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The exhibit features a wide variety of corals — the animals that make the coral reefs — in many shapes, sizes, and colors. In addition, fish, mollusks and other specimens are represented.

A flock of new specimens

Look up into the trees in the Regional Journey Gallery, and you’ll see birds and small mammals perched on branches and tucked into crevices. Among the new additions added to the galleries recently include a variety of bird taxidermy, including a dramatic Bald Eagle, owls, woodpeckers, a Kingfisher and a family of Wood Ducks, with more scheduled for installation soon. Take a look at some of the newest arrivals.

Metamorphosis in Progress

Take a look at some of the new exhibit components and other changes happening at the museum!

Fishy Behavior: Modeling a snack for a Giant Squid

The giant squid (Architeuthis dux) in the museum’s atrium has become one of our iconic exhibits, with thousands gazing up to it in wonder every year. Look up, and you’ll see an orange roughy fish (Hoplostethus atlanticus), trying desperately to avoid the grasp of the squid. But the orange roughy wasn’t the original fish in the atrium.
In 2007, new information about the feeding grounds of giant squid suggested they hunt in deep water – a place where tuna (the previous display fish) rarely go. So, the museum’s Curator of Mollusks, Liz Shea, Ph.D., and former Exhibits Manager Jennifer Sontchi decided to update the exhibit, concluding the orange roughy was the best choice from a scientific, exhibit design, and educational perspective.

While many of the animals in museum displays are real specimens preserved with taxidermy, others have been sculpted by museum artists. Since orange roughy populations are vulnerable to extinction from over-fishing, we chose to sculpt a model for the exhibit instead of displaying an actual preserved fish. Follow along below to see the fascinating process behind creating a scientifically accurate museum model.


The first step towards producing any realistic display is excellent reference material. Dr. Liz Shea, Curator of Mollusks, oversaw the entire project to make certain every detail is correct. The fish at the top of the photo is the paper template created to provide the measurements and proportions of a real orange roughy. The fish in the lower part of the photo is the clay model itself.

Supplemental fins

This photo shows a red snapper fish having its fins molded. We made molds of the snapper’s fins, modified the casts, and inserted them into the clay model of our orange roughy. These fin casts are more realistic than if they were sculpted from scratch.

The model

The clay model of the orange roughy is complete in this photo. You can see the plastic, white, snapper fin casts inserted into the model. The clay surrounding the model is the beginning of the next step, which is making a two-piece mold.

The mold

Here you see the clay model encased on one side in a pale-colored, flexible plastic, which is cradled by a hard, grey shell. Once both sides of the clay model are molded this way, the clay fish model is removed and discarded. The mold now provides an empty space exactly the shape and size of the clay model. A cast is made by filling that fish-shaped space with a liquid plastic that then hardens into an exact replica of an orange roughy.

The cast

This is the finished plastic cast of the model. All that is needed now is paint!

The display

Voila! The orange roughy is sculpted, molded, cast, painted, and attached to the giant squid with hidden pins. That orange roughy better swim faster (just keep swimming, just keep swimming) if he wants to get away.