About Dave Wheelan

Making it Work on the Shore: Reinventing Downtown Easton with Ross Benincasa

In years past, the role of a director of a downtown association would consist of managing and promoting a series of special events created to encourage retail shopping. Special days like “First Friday” and free concert programs have become the standard practice to bring residents and their families to their downtown districts, but is that enough in a country that soon can expect same day delivery from internet sellers?

The answer coming from Ross Benincasa, the Easton Business Alliance’s director, is a definite “no.” While special events remain important strategies, the work of promoting downtown shopping has become increasingly more sophisticated as Ross notes in his first Spy interview.

Specifically, Benincasa, the EBA Board, and Easton’s Town Council are now looking such things as downtown “walkability” improvements and studying pedestrian navigation patterns to significantly improve the experience of shopping. In fact, through Ross’ initiation, the town was the recent recipient of a $145,000 grant from Google to implement its new store view program, allowing app users to peek inside stores, restaurants, and public institutions like libraries and museums, before actually stepping into those venues. The grant also provides Easton a generous advertising budget to go into Washington and Baltimore media markets with its message.

The Spy caught up with Ross at the Bullitt House, where the Easton Business Alliance has their offices, to talk about the future of downtown Easton, its current challenges, and a very encouraging forecast that Easton is well positioned to adjust to this changing climate and maintain its position as one of the Eastern Shore’s most popular shopping hubs.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length. For more information about the Easton Business Alliance please go here.


Spy Profile: Telling the Story of Veterans with Word and Music

The powerful synergy between the spoken word and music has been the source of some truly extraordinary moments in the history of storytelling. From symphony orchestras playing as the backdrop to poetry to prose interjected into rap songs, the human need to combine these powerful forms of communication into one is a time-honored tradition.

This form of fusion seems to have unlimited applications, but nowhere does it triumph more than when pairing the flexible range of jazz to a human being’s very special, and sometimes horrific journey after being at war.

A recent example of this merger can be found in Modern Warrior, a musical drama of a soldier’s journey towards post-traumatic growth. In this case, Dominick Farinacci, the gifted jazz trumpeter, composer and favorite performer at Chesapeake Music’s annual Monty Alexander Jazz Festival, connects through mutual friends with Jaymes Poling, a returning vet, to explore how Farinacci’s music may work collaboratively with the narrative of Poling’s moving war and postwar experience.

The early results of this teamwork appear to be a stunning success. Through the support of benefactors, many of whom make the Mid-Shore their home, Dominick and Jaymes have already created a “pilot” for the musical with a premier expected in New York City, and later Easton, at the end of the year.

The Spy caught up with the co-creators of Modern Warrior at Bullitt House last week to talk about the project.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Modern Warrior project please go here.

Taking the Mystery Out of Easton’s Quality Health Foundation with Dr. Molly Burgoyne

There is one “big box” building at the Waterside Village that is not easy to identify. Among stores like Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Harris Teeter and BJ’s warehouse store, the large home of the nonprofit Quality Health Strategies remains a bit of a mystery for most who that drive by it on Marlboro Street.

Dr. Molly Burgoyne, chair of the Quality Health Foundation, the philanthropic arm of this extremely successful and locally founded health care services provider, wants to fill in that gap of local knowledge.

While QHS and its subsidiaries has grown to over 500 employees (130 of whom work in Talbot County) since it was founded decades ago by a small group of local doctors, it has always been modest in showcasing its innovative work in developing best practices for health organizations and sophisticated  integrity systems to safeguard against fraud in medical billing.

More importantly, particularly to Dr. Burgoyne, the “profit” of these enterprises goes right back into the community every year in the way of charitable grants. In fact, since 2006 QHF has awarded grants totaling more than $4.5 million to 66 organizations in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

The Spy spent some time with Dr. Burgoyne, who is best known locally as a highly regarded rheumatologist in the region, to talk her work with the Quality Health Foundation and its remarkable impact in reaching the neediest in our community with medical coverage and care.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Quality Health Foundation please go here.

Oxford’s Stephen Goldman and World’s Largest Newspaper Collection

Leave it to Oxford to be the home of the largest collection of historical newspapers in private hands. That’s because Stephen Goldman decided that the small town was the perfect place for his retirement after 40 years as a periodontist on the Western Shore. It was also the perfect place to continue with his real life’s work, and that has been the hunt for, and the collection of, rare and early newspapers.

In fact, it was Dr. Goldman’s collection that was used as the foundation of the NEWSEUM’s collection of historical newspapers before opening their $500 million building on Pennsylvania Avenue a few years ago. Those objects are now permanently on rotating display, but in the meantime, Stephen has almost entirely rebuilt his collection of over one million objects and stored in an exceptionally large storage building near his home.

The Spy, who took its name from the tradition of the Chestertown Spy (circa 1793) and the Massachusetts Spy (circa 1770), couldn’t have been more delighted to spend some time with Stephen as he talks about the unique legacy of newspapers in America and his journey in collecting them.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Historical Newspapers please go here.

Stephen will be appearing with journalist  Michael Freedman at The Temple B’nai Israel Summer Institute to discuss Journalism and the Presidency:Past and Present Sunday, June 25, 2017, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM Oxford Community Center 200 Oxford Road, Oxford, MD 21654

BAAM’s Move to a Higher Orbit with Derick Daly

It all started with the simple desire of Derick and Dina Daly to establish an educational scholarship at the Mid-Shore Community Foundation. While still in their mid-thirties, both Dalys felt a real conviction that they must start giving back to their community and particularly help young African-American boys.

Fast-forward thirteen years later, and that relatively small philanthropic gesture has grown into one of Talbot County’s most respected nonprofit organizations, helping stewarding the lives of up to sixty-five boys from the 1st to 8th grade with a brand new outreach center just one hundred feet from Easton Elementary School.

All of this just didn’t happen by magic. Derick and Dina have reached out to almost every section of Talbot County in seeking support, volunteers and collaboration to make the future of these young men as bright as possible.

And on June 8, the Dalys are taking another historic step by announcing plans to add a gym, a kitchen, classrooms and a community event space next to the BAAM building on Jowite Street; and will be seeking support from the region to accomplish that goal.

The Spy sat down with Derick at BAAM’s new office last week to recap what the BAAM mission has been and outline the organization’s need to grow to keep their mission of building African American minds.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about BAAM please go here.

Mid-Shore Arts: Working the Water with Jay Fleming

It is hard not to be a bit unnerved by how young Jay Fleming is after seeing his extraordinary work of photography. While only thirty years old, Fleming has produced a portfolio that shows a maturity and mastery that should match up with someone twice his age.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this surprising contradiction is the fact that he is the son of Kevin Fleming, whose photographs graced the pages of National Geographic for much of the 1980s and 1990s. But the other compelling factor was Jay’s fascination and love of the Chesapeake Bay region from the moment he was first taken out on the water as a child.

Regardless of some of these co-factors, the fact remains that Jay Fleming has very quickly earned the reputation as being part of a new generation of award-winning photographers devoted to recording realistic portraits of men and women working on the water.

The latest example of this booming career is the recent release of Working the Water, a stunning 280-page photography book that chronicles the life and work of watermen from the most northern part of the Chesapeake Bay to the furthest South.

A few weeks ago, the Spy visited Jay in his new studio space in Annapolis to talk about his disciplined approach to the art of photography.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information on Jay Fleming please go here Jay’s work can be found at the Trippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery in Easton.

Senior Nation: Mid-Shore Senior Summit 2017 with Amy Steward and Ruth Sullivan

The aging process doesn’t have to be a daunting one. That’s what Talbot Community Connections leaders Amy Steward and Ruth Sullivan leaders say as they prepare for the TCC and Talbot County Department of Social Services’ second annual Senior Summit next week.

As Amy and Ruth point out in their Spy interview, getting older, or taking care of an aging parent, doesn’t need to be stressful if one has the right tools and resources. The Senior Summit will include workshops on downsizing and move, safe driving, prescription drug misuse, nutrition and yoga, financial planning for retirement, medical planning, and advanced directives, self-defense for seniors, and finding your balance.

In addition to break-out workshops, there will be the opportunity for participants to have lunch and to visit vendor tables to gather additional information on aging issues and services.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information please go here.

Named “Growing Older and Loving It,” on Thursday, June 8, 2017, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Talbot Community Center on Route 50 in Easton, MD. This day-long program for seniors, children of seniors, caregivers, professionals and concerned citizens will provide presentations and discussions on the issues that seniors face today. The cost of the Senior Summit is $10 for seniors (age 60+), $45 for the general public $85 for professionals.

33 Years Strong: Co-Founder Don Buxton Reflects on the Chesapeake Music Festival

For many newcomers to Talbot County it takes a certain adjustment before its flat landscapes and hidden coastlines starts to hint at the remarkable nature of the Eastern Shore life. And that was the case with Don Buxton, the co-founder and Executive Director of Chesapeake Music and its renowned chamber music festival.

A then-recent graduate of Juilliard, who had just started to work with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Don found himself driving to Easton to teach music at the fledgling Academy Art Museum when he began to get the message that this region was not only stunning but could genuinely support a diverse music scene.

Add to that a chance encounter with classical music aficionados Eve and Ralph Bloom after a performance at a local church, both of whom had long advocated for a nationally recognized chamber music festival in Talbot County, it wasn’t too long before Don found himself moving to the area and working with the Blooms, their son Lawrie Bloom and Marcy Rosen to launch what would become the Chesapeake Music Festival.

As the festival begins its 33rd season, the Spy caught up with Don to ask about those early days and how pleased he is that the founder’s aspirations have become so much more than they ever dreamed of.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information Chesapeake Music and its work please so here.

Championing a Horn Point Lab Champion with Jim Brighton & Jamie Pierson

For the last several years, the University Of Maryland’s Horn Point Laboratory has made it a tradition to name a local Chesapeake Champion, to honor those individuals who show through their example how to sustain the region’s wildlife, landscapes and water.

This title is not casually handed out. Former Champions include Waterfowl Festival’s Albert Pritchett, conservationist Chip Akridge, Out of the Fire’s Amy Haines, and last year, Bartlett Pair’s Jordan and Alice Lloyd.

And this year’s recipient, Jim Brighton, falls into that same category as these other greatest stewards of the Bay, but in Jim’s case, his founding the Maryland Biodiversity Project is the first time a “Champion” has been named whose organization includes the work of citizen scientists whose interests relate to Horn Point’s extraordinary research activities in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Since Maryland Biodiversity Project was co-founded by Jim, along with Bill Hubick, in 2012, the organization and its dozens of volunteers have identified and recorded over 17,200 species in the state. And some of that important data is being used by Horn Point scientists, including Jamie Pierson, an oceanographer that focuses most of his work on zooplankton ecology.

And, oh yes, they are friends as well.

In fact, Jim and Jamie Pierson have known each other for many years as professionals, but they met each other in a book club that was studying Thomas Pynchon’s famous novel, ‘Mason & Dixon’. So there is no surprise that Jamie was one of many that was championing Jim for Chesapeake Champion this year.

In their Spy interview, Jamie and Jim talk about their friendship, the important role the Maryland Diversity Project plays in the work of Horn Point Laboratory, and the critical data that MDP has built to support a vibrant, nature study community.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Maryland Diversity Project go here and for Horn Point Laboratory please go here.

There will be a special event to honor Him Brighton at the Waterfowl Festival Armory at 40 S. Harrison Street in Easton on June 23 at 5pm. For tickets and more information please contat Liz Freedlander at lfreedlander@umces.edu

Profiles in Education: The Country School with Neil Mufson

Country School headmaster Neil Mufson, with a 27-year tenure in that position, has approximately 17 more years to go before he matches the record of his predecessor, headmistress Dorothy Startt, in running the kindergarten to eighth-grade private school in Easton. And while he is never indicated this has been his goal, he did from the very beginning of his appointment want to continue and maintain the high standards that Ms. Startt instilled in the small preparatory school where the relationship between student and teacher, as well as younger student and older student, continues to be one of the primary values and mission of the Country School.

Starting 82 years ago, the Country School, and the parents that founded it, took inspiration from another school in Maryland, the Calvert School in Baltimore, as a model for their new undertaking in Talbot County. And while the relationship between the schools was never a formal one, there remains a strong legacy that encourages small classes, individual attention, and an appropriate level of challenge for each of its students.

The Spy spent some time talking to Neil not only the history of the Country School but how it is now preparing its students for a complicated world as they graduate and move into high school and beyond.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Country School please go here.