YMCA’s Robbie Gill on Mergers, Facilities, and Future Plans

Perhaps the last organization one would consider doing mergers and acquisitions would be local YMCA.  But that would not be true this year.  In fact, the YMCA has never been so active in its history as when it formally brought in the Dorchester and Cecil County YMCA programs year while also moving forward with building plans in St. Michaels, Salisbury, and in Centreville.

With those additions, the YMCA serving the Eastern Shore now has ten centers, over 35,000 members covering 2,500 square miles, ranging from Elkton to the North all the way down to Chincoteague Island.

It has been quite a feat for the YMCA’s board as well as staff under the direction of Robbie Gill, which made the Spy all the more curious about this dramatic expansion and what it means for the future of Y programming throughout the region.

In our interview with Robbie, the CEO of this remarkable enterprise makes the persuasive argument that through effective management and efficiency of scale, these ten independent YMCA programs can be united through cost savings, resource sharing, and most importantly to Robbie Gill, the sharing of knowledge and experience.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the YMCA of the Chesapeake please go here

The Kaleidoscopic Memoirs of Will Howard

While Will Howard should feel great satisfaction that he is able to document some of the great highlights of a life spent in Talbot County, it will be future local historians who will be the most grateful for his recollections.

Will’s memoirs, which starts in 1936, when his future parents first met at a boarding house on Harrison Street when Will’s father became the manager of the Avalon Theatre at the same time his mom became a public school music teacher, span over the opening of the family-owned bowling alley, the start of the fine dining movement in Easton with the opening of Chambers, the saving of the Avalon, all the way up to the present day.  But he also talks about the darker sides of living on the Eastern Shore with his early news reporting of the Cambridge riots in the 1960s and his own experience with racism in Talbot County when the bowling alley first opened its doors.

Scheduled for release starting this Saturday, October 21, with a book signing at the News Center in Easton, A Kaleidoscopic Memoir has over forty stories that shed a special light on a unique life well lived.

The Spy caught up with Will at Bullitt House last week to share some of those memories with us.

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

Spy Eye: Twenty Years of Art, Faith, and Friendship on Harrison Street

What has a Russian name, a Christian foundation, just turned twenty years old, and represents over thirty of the region’s best artists? If you answered the Troika Gallery in downtown Easton, you are correct.

In fact, Troika Gallery Fine Art Studio has been one of Talbot County’s most successful art galleries for most of that time. Humbly started in 1997 when it opened up in the Talbottown Shopping Center (now where Jo-Jo’s Cupcakes resides), Troika has matured to the point where it now offers art from less than a $1,000 to over $50,000. It is a remarkable case study of working artists coming together to build what Laura Era, one of the c0-founders, has called a special ministry, combining the talents of professionally trained artists and sculptors with a clear spiritual component.

The Spy has always been interested in this landmark art center on Harrison Street for some time, and finally had the chance to sit down with Laura and Jennifer Heyd Wharton, two of three co-founders (Laura’s mother Dorothy Newland retired in 2012) to talk about some of the history and personality of this popular art showcase, as well as their profound sense of faith, after twenty years of showing art as well as using the space to create their own work.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the Troika Gallery please go here

Taming the Monster at St. Mark’s for Fifty Years with Dr. Bill Wharton

There are very few examples of a partnership that has lasted 50 years where one partner speaks of the other as a “monster.” But that’s what Dr. Bill Wharton says about the St. Mark’s United Methodist Church’s 1962 Tellers organ that he has worked to master since he arrived in Easton as the Church’s principal organist in 1967.

In Bill’s case, however, the use of the word monster is one of great affection and respect. In his interview with the Spy to celebrate his fifth decade not only playing the organ there but also a lifetime career in teaching music on the Mid-Shore, the Centerville native talks about harnessing the power that comes with this colossal instrument with its 2,437 wood and model pipes.

By his own admission, Bill does not put himself in the 1st tier of organists but is extremely grateful that he studied with some of them. The first being Clarence Waters, his college organ tutor and mentor at Trinity College. And it was through his relationship with Waters that he gained access to the famed Marcel Dupré in Paris, considered one of the finest organists of the 20th century.

Bill also talks about the exceptional spiritual connection that music provides a church and its congregation, as well as his personal experiences of sensing the divine when witnessing the masters perform in the World’s great cathedrals.

In celebration of Bill’s 50th anniversary, St. Mark’s has commissioned a unique composition that will be performed by Bill in late November one of a series of official acknowledgments by the Church of how valuable his service has been to the music on the Mid-Shore.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about St. Mark’s and its music programs please go here.

Commentator Craig Fuller Comments on ESN (Easton Airport)

When people ask Talbot County’s Craig Fuller about his opinions these days, it is more likely to be of a political nature.

There’s a good reason for that. Craig was one of the early members of the Reagan team that moved into the White House after the 1980 election. From there, he became the chief of staff for Vice President George H.W. Bush, and later chaired Bush’s transition team after the 1988 vote.

And a lot of people are asking Craig Fuller’s opinion these days. He can regularly be found on cable news as a commentator or writing Op-Ed articles for leading journals.

One can count the Spy as another media outlet also seeking out Craig’s thoughts, but with an entirely different subject of mind, namely small airports.

Beyond the significant political experiences the Fuller had in his early years in Washington, he left public service to become the CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. During that time, his familiarity with rural and small regional airports was not only part of his job, but he was also able to critically evaluate the good and the bad ones of the more than 5,000 small airports in the country.

As the Mid-Shore approaches the annual Airport Day at the Easton Regional Airport on September 30th, the Spy saw this as a perfect opportunity to talk to Craig about the importance of small airports and his thoughts on ESN.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Airport Day at the Easton Airport please go here

The Queens of Washington Street: The Drag Race for Talbot Hospice

It’s safe to say that Washington Street never gets campier in a given year than during the annual Talbot Hospice Drag Race. Ten or so men in full drag take to the streets of Easton in September to win the support of blue-ribbon judges on their wardrobe and charm.

Its also a wonderful way for the community to support the work of the greatly respected Talbot Hospice, which has helped so many families on the Mid-Shore with end of life support and treatment.

The Spy was there to catch some of the fun.

This video is approximately five minutes in length.  For more information on Talbot Hospice please go here 

Spy Update: Robert Messick’s Long Walk Home has Become a Bit Longer

  • To use the boxer Mike Tyson’s now famous line,  everyone has a plan “until someone punches you in the throat.” Talbot County attorney Robert Messick has found that to be true after spending the last four and a half months hiking the Appalachian Trail as a fundraiser for the Talbot Interfaith Shelter.

While the plan had been to simply start at the most southern part of the trail and hike all the way up to Maine in one continuous stretch of time, an early injury and severe weather in the South forced Robert to divide the project into different sections of the 2,200 miles of the famed path.

All total though, as he recounted with the Spy when we checked in with him during a short break in Easton, he’s completed 1,800 of those miles and hopes that he’ll be completely done by the end of the Fall.

But we all know about plans…

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information on Talbot Interfaith Shelter and the Long Walk Home project please go here.

 

 

Shedding Light on the Great Total Solar Eclipse of 2017 by Greg Mort

A total solar eclipse is an exotic event disrupting the normal routine of our celestial drama. This extraordinary event evokes the same kind of wonder as the appearance of a comet or a meteor shower. Throughout history, cosmic occurrences have ignited inspiration as well as consternation. Historically before eclipses were understood or predicted, ancient people were terrified.

Today we have the benefit of centuries of scientific knowledge to our diminish fears and enrich our experience. However, I would like to propose, to more fully enjoy the Great Total Eclipse of 2017 that you witness it as purely as possible by simply using all your five senses.

The morning of August 21st a total solar eclipse will race across the continental United States drawing an unprecedented amount of public attention. Our first truly transcontinental total solar eclipse in nearly 100 years and the first since the inception of the Internet we will have the ability to instantly communicate personal expression/interpretation and information. Even viewers clouded out or not in the direct path of totality will be able to share the event via live-feeds on many social media platforms.

As an artist and an astronomer who has logged as many hours at the telescope as at my easel, my suggestion is to view this once in a lifetime event free from our normal appendages of multi sensorial devices such as cameras and or communication devices.

While I compose these thoughts several weeks before the big day, many folks have made their travel plans, booked hotels, campsites, rented RV’s, imposed on relatives or strangers in the path of totality. A grand chorus of news coverage, endless but important safety warnings and equipment sales of all sizes and costs have already begun. In fact, if you are just now considering your battle plan, you are behind the curve by quite a bit. Still, don’t despair there is hope. Even if your hometown lies beyond the path of totality, a partial eclipse can be memorable if you take the time to enjoy the spectacle on multiple experiential levels.

Throughout a total solar eclipse and depending upon your location and good fortunate with the weather gods our sun will be partly or entirely blocked out by the moon passing directly in front of it. The moon’s close proximity to Earth allows it to appear to cover (eclipse) the solar disk even though it is hundreds of times smaller than

Greg Mort eclipse watching. Note solar discs projected on the ground.

our sun. As the moon’s shadow travels across the earth at over 1000 miles an hour (due to the moons orbital motion minus the Earth’s eastward), the viewer will witness the gentle lunar dance lasting about two hours from start to finish. The sky will slowly darken; temperatures will drop as the air under the shadow cools causing winds to dissipate transforming the landscape with an eerie stillness. One should not expect the sky to appear uniformly dark.

The area closest to the sun will be darkened, and as we gaze toward the earth’s horizon, it will appear lighter. The highlight, (total coverage of the sun) will only last a little over two minutes. During these tantalizing few moments, the jet-black disk of the moon is directly over the sun. A breathtaking sun-lite halo called the corona (Latin for crown) surrounding the disc. Then as the dance progresses light streaks through the valleys of the lunar mountains in a brief sparkling phenomenon known as “Baily’s Beads.”

Be open to all of the unique qualities a solar eclipse has to offer. There is a fascinating list of observations you can witness aside from following the disc of the moon as it crosses over the sun. For example, since the entire event spans about two hours make a note of how the quality, tone, color or transparency of light around you change. From my experience, wondrous and unusual lighting effects are parts of the drama of any total or partial solar eclipse. In general, the tone of what would normally be a sunny bright day gives way to an ever-changing palette of “silvery” light. Some observers have also reported a “green-ness” as the light diminishes.

Those viewers in the direct path of the moon’s shadow will also enjoy the brief appearance of several planets and bright stars. Starting at about thirty minutes before totality the planets Venus, Jupiter, Mars, and Mercury will gradually come into view. The brightest star in our sky, Sirius along with Arcturus, Capella and Regulus will add to the spectacle.

Please remember that no matter how much of the sun’s disc is covered it is always advised to use proper protective eye shielding at all times. Inexpensive Mylar solar filters and glasses are available from many sources.

To photograph or not to photograph is a very common and important question. I was confronted with the same choice during my first artistic commission as a NASA artist. The veteran members of the Shuttle Art team who had portrayed earlier missions wisely suggested not wasting valuable time snapping pictures. Rather they recommended focusing on a real-time emotional eyewitness record.

I failed to heed their warning and purchased a camera that could take continuous frames. Fortunately, as Sally Ride became the first American woman to orbit the Earth, I was able to take a number of images and watch at the carry any of the impact of the brilliant light, thundering sound, earthquake like vibration, smell of the rocket fuel or the sensation of the infrared heat hitting your face even at three miles from the launch pad! In the end the artwork that I produced for the NASA Art

The program came entirely from the overpowering emotional impact of witnessing this powerful event. Photographing was a total waste of time and a major distraction.

For photographs of this eclipse, I plan to depend upon the thousands of professional images taken by people well versed in recording such a rare event that will be instantaneously available to the public via the Internet, journals, and magazines. My first priority will be to savor each aspect of the spectacle, first-hand, record it via the mind’s eye, and use all five senses to totally absorb the atmosphere.

However, if it is just too hard to resist the temptation to capture the event electronically, here are a few simple tricks that should produce positive results. Use a tripod to hold your cell phone or camera for hands-free operation. Set up and test your equipment in advance and practice the steps you will follow to confirm smooth functioning. Making your technical process as “automatic “ as possible should allow you the freedom to enjoy the eclipse on a high tech as well as sensorial level.

Finally, I would also encourage watching the eclipse with others. The more perspectives and memories you rally together, the better your chances are to notice a discrete aspect or unique interpretation of the phenomenon. After the show has come and gone it is particularly wonderful to discuss and relive the event with your fellow eclipse companions.

Then, you can all start planning for the next eclipse adventure

Greg Mort is an internationally recognized contemporary artist who is represented by the Carla Massoni Gallery, a passionate amateur astronomer and member of the NASA Shuttle Art Team who serves on the board of the Lowell Observatory. He is traveling to Madras, Oregon to view the eclipse with family and friends.

Spy Minute: Talbot’s Crashbox Theatre Company with Ricky Vitanovec and Kelly Bonnette

Crashbox Theatre, a summer program directed towards Talbot County youth, illustrates the unbelievable talent in theatre arts in our community and a direct link to the professional talents of New York City.

Richard (Ricky) Vitanovec, who serves our community as theatre teacher at Easton Middle School and Easton High School, is the Executive Director ~ Crashbox Theatre Company, and works tirelessly to develop relationships in New York that transfer to direct opportunities for local youth.

The latest partnership brings Brian Michael Hoffman from the SEUSICAL Off-Broadway show, loaded with experience from touring nationally with ANNIE, and Internationally with HERCULES, THE MUSE-ICAL. He even served on the film team for ANNIE and THE WIZ LIVE with Sony Studios and NBC’s PETER PAN LIVE. Hoffman specializes in Character Voices and Improv, while teaching expertexpert technique for acting for live audiences. Having his attention on our youth opens doors for the future.

Vitanovec attracts the experts due to his earned reputation in New York City as a serious talent developer and show producer and director. He holds a master’s degree in theatre production and has directed over thirty-three productions. He further contributes to our community by acting at Church Hill Theatre, Hugh Gregory Gallagher Theatre, Tred Avon Players and the St. Michael’s Community Center

The Spy sits down with Ricky  and Kelly Bonnette, the volunteer president of Crashbox, for an exclusive on what to expect this summer for our young actors and actresses.

As they say in theatre, the show must go on!

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Find out more about Crashbox please go here.

Shore Leadership Class Meets at Wye River Upper School

The 2017 Shore Leadership class met at Wye River Upper School in Queen Anne’s County on May 24th for the first of 7 sessions.  Two students from Wye River Upper School greeted and welcomed the class to the completely renovated Centreville National Guard Barracks which Wye River now calls home.

The morning session was facilitated by Dr. Joe Thomas on Leading with Strengths.  The class had completed the Strengths Finder assessment and used that information throughout the morning as they worked with Dr. Thomas.

After lunch, Ms. Chrissy Aull, founder and Executive Director of Wye River Upper School discussed the history of the school and why there is a need for schools like Wye River.  Three students shared their stories and talked about how their learning differences held them back at their other schools but that at Wye River their differences have become their strengths and have helped them to be successful.  The students and Ms. Aull gave the class a tour of the renovated campus. 

Dr. Jon Andes, Executive Director of the Eastern Shore of Maryland Education Consortium, spoke to the class about the State of Public Education in Maryland.  He shared the laws the govern Maryland public education and told the class that each year there is a deficit of more than 2000 qualified teachers in Maryland.  The Maryland colleges are not producing enough teachers and students are not enrolling to become teachers.  Neighboring states are also seeing a decline in their teacher education programs. He also shared that since 1986 the nine counties on the Eastern Shore have been part of the ESMEC consortium which gives them a bigger voice with the legislature and with the Maryland State Department of Education.

Later in the afternoon Marci Leach from Chesapeake College and Bryan Newton from Wor-Wic Community College led a discussion and game show which highlighted the role of Community Colleges in today’s world.  Deborah Urry, Executive Director of the Eastern Shore Higher Education Center shared information about the baccalaureate and graduate degrees offered at the Center which is located on the Chesapeake College Wye Mills Campus.

Throughout the day the class focused on how strengths can be used as a focus for leadership development.  The next session will be held in Caroline County in June and will deal with the topic of Rural Health Care.