Working Artists Forum Annual Show Opens at Chesapeake College

On Monday, April 3rd, the Working Artists Forum (WAF) will open their Annual Spring Show at Chesapeake College in the Todd Performing Arts Center. Member artists of WAF will display original paintings in oil, watercolor, acrylic and pastel, along with works in pen and ink, mixed media and printmaking. The Spring Show at Chesapeake College is a yearly judged event, showcasing talented member artists united in an exhibition that displays an exhilarating diversity of style and technique.

“Better Days Ahead”- oil by Amy Cummins

The Working Artists Forum is a non-profit organization of 90 professional artists who meet monthly at the Academy Art Museum in Easton for discussions, demonstrations and critiques by acclaimed artists. Membership is established by a jury composed of fellow artists. WAF members actively exhibit their work separately and together, and have pieces in private and corporate collections throughout the United States and internationally.

David Diaz, a formally trained, award winning plein air painter and teacher, currently based in Annapolis, Maryland, will be the judge for this show. Mr. Diaz’s works are included in collections within the United States, Europe and Asia.

The Working Artists Forum Spring Show at Chesapeake College is free and open to the public, Monday through Friday and during specially scheduled weekend performances. This show will hang in the lobby gallery of the Todd Performing Arts Center throughout the month of April. For more information about the Working Artists Forum, please see their website: www.workingartistsforum.com.

Mid-Shore Arts: Kevin Garber and His Birds

Kevin Garber’s road to the Eastern Shore, like many artists, was not a direct one. A native of Pennsylvania, Kevin headed west rather than stay on the East Coast to pursue his career in the fine arts, and eventually became a professor of printmaking and drawing at Washington University in St. Louis. And in that capacity, he was part of the famed Island Press, perhaps the most highly respected printmaking workshop in the country.

During that time, Garber was at the forefront of some of the innovative printing techniques that pushed printmaking into the high ranks of contemporary visual arts in the 1980s and 1990s. Working alongside such renowned American artists as Nick Cave, Tom Friedman, Willie Cole, and Ann Hamilton, Kevin devoted most of his energy to the workshop and his students and put on hold his lifelong passion for drawing and painting birds.

But after decades in St. Louis, Kevin, and his wife, Kathy Bosin, made the difficult decision to return to the Mid-Atlantic to be closer to aging parents in 2008. And with that move, Kevin finally returned to his first love of capturing birds on canvas.

The results of that return can now be seen at the Trippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery in Easton this month. From large scale watercolor monoprints to tiny renderings of birds from around the world, Garber practices his drawing skills and mark-making with these simple shapes to indicate a more complex view of the natural world.

The Spy spent a few minutes with Kevin at the Bullitt House last week to talk about his birds and his return to painting.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. There will be an opening reception on Friday April 7 from 5-8 during Easton’s First Friday Gallery Walk. The Trippe-Hilderbrandt is located at 23 N Harrison Street. For more information, please go here 

Spy Moment: Academy Art Museum Welcomes Mid-Shore Student Exhibition

The Academy Art Museum is hosting its annual Mid-Shore Student Art Exhibition which highlights the artistic talents of students in grades Kindergarten through 12 from Talbot, Caroline, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Kent counties. As in past years, visitors can expect a variety of media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, and printmaking. The Mid-Shore Student Art Exhibition has been a Museum tradition for over 25 years and are the largest and most prestigious student art exhibition on the Eastern Shore.

The Spy took a few minutes the other day to talk to Constance Del Nero, AAM’s Director of Community Programs, to talk about the joy and challenges of hanging over 1,000 pieces of art for the student art show.

This video is approximately one minute in length.  The Mid-Shore Art Exhibition will be on display through April 2. For additional information, visit academyartmuseum.org or call 410-822-2787.

Mid-Shore Arts: The Church Hill Theatre at 35 Years Old with Nina Sharp

A quick check of Wikipedia shows a very limited response to the query term, “Church Hill, Maryland.” In fact, with the exception of a summary of the 2010 census, which shows that about 500 people live in the town, and that Church Hill has four buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, there’s not much there.

But it does have one thing that very few places have, and that’s the beloved and successful Church Hill Theatre (CHT).

Built in the 1920s as the town’s community center, the building became the home of the Church Hill Theatre in 1982, some thirty-five years ago. That was reason enough for the Spy to want to know more about the CHT. It seemed rather remarkable that a community theatre company could survive that long in a town of 500 which rests some fifteen miles from the next town over.

But in talking to the Theatre’s executive manager Nina Sharp the other day, it turns out the CHT is not only surviving but actually thriving. With five major theatre productions a year, two youth educational programs, as well as ongoing partnerships with Chesapeake College, Gunston School, and the Home Educators of the Eastern Shore, Church Hill is very much alive and well.

That’s not to say CHT doesn’t have its challenges with owning a building that needs a great deal of love and care, but as Nina suggests in our chat, all signs look good for another thirty five years.

This video is approximately minutes in length. For more information about the Church Hill Theatre, please go here.

Mid-Shore Arts: Ben Simons Takes the Helm at the Academy Art Museum

For Ben Simons, the road to the Eastern Shore and his appointment as the new director of the Academy Art Museum is almost a lesson in geography. Raised by diplomats who served in a variety of iron curtain countries in the 1980s, including places like Romania, Russia, and Poland, it was through this somewhat exotic childhood that Ben first connected with museums and the unique role those institutions play in culture. But it would turn out to be the island of Nantucket where Simons first embraced the world of museum management as a career.

For close to fifteen years, Ben and his wife, the artist Alison Cooley, made that remote community off the shores of Massachusetts their home which allowed them both to pursue their real interests. While Alison focused on her art, Ben became the chief curator and senior management member of Nantucket Historical Association’s highly regarded Whaling Museum. And it was at this institution that he began to connect the dots between literature, history, art, and education.

In the Spy’s first interview with Ben, he talks about his background, his passion for art, and some of the new initiatives he’s already started at the Academy, including doubling down on its educational programs, the redesign of the AAM website, reinstituting the very popular Craft Show this fall, and finally preparing for the Museum’s 60th birthday in 2018. Not bad for four months on the job.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: Carla Massoni’s “Little Demons” in Chestertown

Carla Massoni is the first to credit her friend and artist Kenneth Schiano for the title of a new art show at Massoni’s gallery on High Street in Chestertown starting this month called Little Demons. It was Ken’s way of describing those nagging and relentless self-reminders coming from within that he needs to push harder with his art.  

And while that might sound like rather negative, Schiano was using the term with its original Greek meaning in mind, which is closer to divine inspiration or a form of happiness rather than a fallen angel. In Ken’s world, his demons motivate him to produce more challenging art. 

Carla saw that these demons could be seen with a number of artists she has worked with at certain points in their careers, and she therefore called upon Schiano and gallery artists Karen Hubacher, Claire McArdle, Zemma Mastin White, Leigh Wen, Katherine K. Allen, Anne Leighton Massoni and Deborah Weiss to be part of this winter show.  She also recruited other artists she has admired to participate like the multi-talented Joe Karlik,  Raphael Sassi and Sara Bakken.

The Spy spoke to Carla at her gallery a few days ago to get a better sense how constructive “Little Demons” in the process of creating art.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about “Little Demons” please go here

Delmarva Review: To Three Suburban Moms Too Frightened To Drive Their Girls To My Detroit Neighborhood

Did you miss our latest spectacle? And the outcome—urban renewal so bright it’s visible from satellites buzzing overhead? Look now, toward construction ticking like clockwork at every downtown corner, cranes hanging like kites at our choppy skyline. See the buildings still standing. The earthmovers shoveling remnants of those that tumbled to the pavement. See Woodward Avenue gutted like a silver trout as commuter trains aim from suburbs to city for the first time ever, while church choirs in every nook and crook of Motown proclaim Hallelujah to packed houses and God in His heaven!

Come this way. We won’t sting or pinch, won’t give you a second glance—these days most of us are wary as turtles, heads crammed in shells. Weary as sloths beneath the weight of everyone’s attention, the any moment now when it swings like a trapeze to the next calamity. So by the time you read this, we’ll already be forgotten.

I promise—my own neighbors barely shoot their guns anymore, and then only on holidays, only into the sky—which clearly had it coming! We’re grounded as century oaks. Check our brick foundations, how firmly they’re jammed into the dirt. We’ve stood through decades of hail and sleet and funnel clouds all. We’re so airtight our basements sometimes burst into flame, even as fire hydrants trickle 24/7.

Look how ivy climbs arm over fist across our roofs. How every spring the day lilies shove headfirst through our crusty soil. See how high our roses grow in summer, how the squirrels eat the pumpkins every Halloween and nobody begrudges them. How Christmas lights go on twinkling all through the long winter and into the thaw—it’s our civic duty and we take it damn seriously. And down the street in neon red, Jesus Saves! shines all year long from someone’s bedroom window.
So what if a little litter loiters at our crosswalks, the band flyers riding the wind, some crinkled Kit Kat wrappers because who doesn’t love those? The empty MD 20/20 bottle rolling like a puppy into a lonely pothole that’s only swallowed one VW Bus. That one time. We know of.

So breathe easy, my dears. These days nature mostly keeps to itself. And what doesn’t, we work around because we’re slippery that way. No one bothers when packs of unloved, spotty mutts come shuffling and snuffling at our garbage bins. And if you ignore the wild turkey lording over the golf course behind my house, she’ll leave you be.

Where I live, raccoons and possums only go about their errands at dusk. Disregard reports of fox, of gray wolves near the river, their midnight songs blending with sirens, so we only moan along in our deepest dreams.

It’s true—somewhere across the city, families of hawks circle the clouds, plummeting to Earth like glossy missiles to pick off unlucky bunnies or rats—quicksnap and it’s done. Feral cats squat like hobos in abandoned storefronts, pheasants disappear into grasslands where blocks of houses are right this moment sinking beneath the press of rain. But you’ll never see this. No one comes here anymore. Not like my good neighborhood.So pack your girls, point your car toward the incinerator, and drive.

Never mind the factory fire at our northern border, how it’s smoldered three days now—only watch your direction in the smoke plume! Look for landmarks—Praise Him Beauty Salon here, The Booby Trap over there, a hundred little pot shops all in a row, their ubiquitous green crosses sprung like saplings from naked ground. Hand-painted signs declaring Club Medz and House of Dank and Puff Detroit so we’re all kind of embarrassed. Shut your windows to avoid the contact high, and just keep driving.

Corner of 8 Mile and Woodward, pass Face-Tattoo-Guy looking rougher by the week. Beside the bridge, see Old-Lady-With-Snaggletooth who keeps an eye on Toothless-Guy. There’s Young-Guy spelled by Other-Young-Guy, their cluttered patch of landscape like a refugee camp. There’s Crazy-Guy who’ll point at you and laugh—just fair warning. Give him a buck, or not. Offer a nod. Or not.

It changes nothing. But come anyhow. I’m serving brownies from scratch, and chamomile tea with honey from city bees. You’re so close, your mouth waters.

Or not. Don’t fret, we’ll be fine either way. My daughter will shrug like teenagers do. Whatever, she’ll say. She’s used to it by now. And you’re nestled like shiny pennies in your houses, your green-as-a-dollar-bill lawns edged in perfect squares, cars snug as ponies in every garage. All of which makes me want to tell you something important, something about our stars and how they’re misaligned.

Or that a butterfly flap flap flapped its wings fifty-some years ago and the weather shifted, the storm rose between us—then faded from Technicolor to gray, to ghost.

But that doesn’t matter. We are here. Come if you like.

The Spy is pleased to reprint Ms. Bernstein-Machlay’s creative nonfiction from The Delmarva Review, Volume 9. The literary journal is published by the Eastern Shore Writers Association with support from private contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. For information, visit: www.delmarvareview.com.

Laura Bernstein-Machlay is an instructor of literature and creative writing at The College for Creative Studies, in Detroit, Michigan. Her poems and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals including Michigan Quarterly Review, New Madrid, Concho River Review, Oyez, Redivider, and upstreet. She has work forthcoming in The American Scholar, Soundings East, and Moon City Review.

Mid-Shore Arts: A Nostalgia Monument by Rachel Schmidt at the Kohl

Any time there is a new curator at work at the Kohl Gallery at Washington College, the Spy tends to become very curious. And the opening of the “What’s Next” exhibition there by new Kohl director Katherine Markoski was no exception last Friday when we had a chance to interview one of the artists participating in this commentary art showcase of new and exciting talent.

The Spy sat down with Rachel Schmidt shortly before the opening of the show to talk about her art installation entitled “Nostalgia Monument: Float Trip Edition 2017,” where she explores, using her own personal garbage over a six month period of time, how the increased rate of urban growth has led to dangerous new consequences for human beings and animals alike with the help of video and sound.

Rachel is currently an independent museum professional and works with local D.C. arts organizations, non-profits, and museums. From 2011-16, she was an artist in residence at the Arlington Arts Center, and from 2012-16 she was an exhibition specialist and exhibition coordinator at the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. The Kohl Gallery is located on the first floor of the Gibson Center for the Arts at Washington College. It is open Monday through Wednesday, 1 to 6 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, please email: kohl_gallery@washcoll.edu.

Mid-Shore Arts: WC’s Rose O’Neill Literary House with Director James Allen Hall

Over the last two decades, Washington College has invested heavily into three major institutions on their campus. The first two of these so-called “Centers for Excellence,” are the highly respected C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the equally impressive Center for Environment & Society. Both have built themselves into exceptionally vital parts of campus life as well as the entire Mid-Shore..

The third, the Rose O’Neill Literary House, is perhaps the least known of the triplets, but certainly is the oldest with over forty years of student programs, literary publications and a long list of some of the best known names in the world of arts and letter making campus visits, including the likes of Toni Morrison, Allen Ginsberg and

And while the “Lit House” program does not equal its WC peers in endowment support and operating budgets, it makes up for it with inspired leadership. Starting with the program’s founder Bob Day in 1970 and now under the stewardship of professor and poet James Allen Hall, the College is one of small handful of writing centers in the country that has distinguished itself for its diversity and student participation.

The Spy caught up with James last month to talk about the art and relevance of writing as well as the often underestimated value of being a good writer as college graduates seek their first jobs. The Chestertown resident also talks about his own aspirations for the Lit House and his home there can be more town-gown programming and outreach.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. Additional video was provided by Washington College. For more information about the Rose O’Neill Literary House, please go here.

Mid-Shore Arts: The National Music Festival Finds Its Sea Legs

When Maestro Richard Rosenberg and his partner and wife, Caitlin Patton, informed Chestertown in late 2011 that the National Music Festival (NMF), with about one hundred musicians and dozens of planned public performances, would move to their town, one could almost hear the whole of Chestertown say collectively, “who, us, really?”

With a population close to 5,000, and at least forty to fifty miles away from urban centers that would traditionally do a better job in hosting such a large undertaking, Chestertown seemed an unlikely candidate for such a honor. Nonetheless, for a community that prides itself for its love of the arts, and particularly music, there was also a feeling that their small town had just won the lottery. 

Now entering its sixth year of operation on the Mid-Shore, Richard and Caitlin sat down with the Spy last month to talk about the remarkable success the NMF has been in Chestertown and how well suited it has become in bringing together some of the best student talent in the country to learn and perform throughout the region. They also talk about NMF’s year-long educational programming with local schools, and their aspirations for the Festival in the years ahead.

This video is approximately five minutes in length and made in cooperation with the Mid-Shore Community Foundation. For more information about the National Music Festival, please go here.