On Dec. 14, 2006, a helicopter spun out of control, crashing near Dagsboro, Delaware. Onboard was 42-year-old real estate developer and philanthropist Joshua M. Freeman. The respected businessman died in the tragic crash, but his legacy of giving and his passion for the arts live on through a foundation that bears his name.
After his death, Freeman’s wife, Michelle, established the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, based in Selbyville. The organization works to offer memorable performances to the community, while also focusing on arts education. The Foundation is, perhaps, best known for the variety of performances featured at its concert venue, the Freeman Stage at Bayside, located in the
Already in 2017, performers such as Hunter Hayes, Jay Leno, The Wallflowers, Dustin Lynch and the Mid-Atlantic Symphony Orchestra have graced the Freeman Stage. The venue has been open for 10 seasons, offering inspiring performances to more than 322,000 visitors.
According to Patti Grimes, executive director of the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, “What we’re most proud of is that the community responded to our efforts. We’ve served one-third of a million people and we are overcome with gratitude. We couldn’t do what we do without community support. Arts really can bring people together and define a community.”
A brand new stage has greeted visitors to the outdoor arena this year — it’s bigger, offers better views of performances and is capable of accommodating larger national recording artists. While the new stage is an important step forward for the Foundation, employees are working on an even more ambitious plan. Fundraising will soon begin for the construction of the Coastal Arts Pavilion at Freeman Park. With an expected cost of $25 million, the Pavilion will accommodate 4,000 visitors and could be completed in four-to-six years.
The Foundation is also inspiring the next generation of artists through several programs offered to local students. The Arts in Education initiative brings thousands of students each year to the Freeman Stage to experience exciting performances. Also part of the initiative is the Legacy Mural Project, which allows students to create large murals in their respective schools. There are also interactive programs for students involving opera, hip-hop and poetry. The Foundation will continue making a difference in schools and in the community, motivating young artists and offering quality entertainment to Sussex County. More than 230 volunteers assist in making the arts events as memorable as possible. As the Foundation continues to grow, Grimes and her staff said they remain committed to fulfilling the legacy of an extraordinary man whose life ended too soon.
“Josh was an inclusive person and always wanted people to feel welcome. The Freeman Stage represents his love for the arts and inclusion. Josh would be in awe of how the community has made this a special place to come and enjoy the arts,” said Grimes.
The Foundation is a registered 501(c)(3). They are able to provide arts programs, thanks to generous donations from the public and businesses. For more information about the Foundation, please visit