Archives for March 2012

Wind Power Bill Passes House as Republicans Question How Votes were Gained

The House passed the administration’s offshore wind power bill Friday amid accusations Gov. Martin O’Malley secured votes on the House Economic Matters Committee with disparity grants to committee members’ districts.

“Those of you who have been here longer than two weeks know there’s a lot of complicated pressures that go into making a bill pass or fail,” said House Minority Leader Anthony O’Donnell. “Sometimes it takes a little nudge, sometimes it takes a carrot, and sometimes it takes a stick.”

The disparity grant program in Maryland provides subsidies to jurisdictions with income tax receipts that fall below 75% of the state household average. Sources close to the Environmental Matters Committee said the administration leveraged grant money for favorable votes on the wind bill.

O’Donnell made strong inferences on the House floor that the administration used the “vast tools in the budget process” to sway committee members to move the bill to a full vote in the House.

The administration wants a developer to place 40 wind turbines 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City by 2017 to help the state meets it renewable energy portfolio of 20% by 2022.

“I’m not saying that happened here,” O’Donnell said. “But we all know this is part of the process.”

A lawmaker who asked to remain anonymous said disparity grants “can be used as leverage but usually for other budget items.”

Other politicos close to the process said there were “rumblings” about the administration “flexing its financial muscle on the Economic Matters Committee…there was some coercion.”

Del. Dereck Davis, D-Prince George’s, chair of the Economic Matters Committee responded to the accusations of “pressure” from the administration.

“You all know me,” Davis said on the House floor. “Nobody pressures me into a darn thing.”

Del. Kevin McHale, D-Baltimore City, also objected to O’Donnell’s accusations and insisted it was the House Economic Matters Committee that applied pressure on the administration to remove any risk to consumers in the bill.

The wind farm bill failed last year because the proposed $9 monthly surcharge to households created sticker shock among lawmakers who were reluctant to raise electric rates in a recessionary environment. Last year’s bill also didn’t bode well with utility companies that would have been required to buy the wind power.

This year’s bill would cap rates at $1.50 per 1000 kilowatt-hours for households and businesses would pay 1.5% of total consumption. The purchase mandate to power companies was also removed in this year’s bill.

O’Donnell also took issue with a provision that requires the use of union labor for the project.

“Those who are not unionized will not be able to compete for this work,” O’Donnell said. “It’s anti-competitive and it will drive up costs.”

Davis responded that the project was “not strictly the domain of organized labor” and that non-union labor could also participate.

Some lawmakers say offshore wind is too expensive

Other Republican lawmakers ranted on a troubled future for offshore wind, citing problems in other countries that have used offshore wind power since the 1990s.

Del. Patrick McDonough, R-Harford, said British citizens were in “rebellion” because offshore wind power has spiked energy bills. He also said experts in the economics of offshore wind power were walking away from similar projects because federal incentives were no longer available to defray the high costs of production.

He said that Spain’s largest wind turbine producer recently cut its production in half because of falling demand.

The cost to produce offshore wind power is 24 cents a kilowatt — compared to nuclear, coal, and gas, which average 11 cents to produce.

McDonough said he had serious doubts the $1.5 billion estimate to build the facility was realistic. He pointed to cost overruns to build the Intercounty Connector between Montgomery and Prince George’s counties and the I-95 redevelopment.

McDonough believes any cost overruns would likely come back on ratepayers and said the $1.50 monthly charge to households was a “phony baloney figure.”

Del. Ben Kramer, D-Montgomery, who opposed the project last year, said this year’s bill was drastically different and removed all the risks to households in development of the proposed wind farm.

“We have a very different bill this year,” Kramer said, looking towards McDonough. “The bill now puts the risk only on the developer and the ratepayer will not pay a nickel until the facility is built, operating, and producing electricity, and we will not be assuming the risks of a failed offshore wind project.”

The bill passed by a vote of 88-47 with only five Democrats voting against the measure.

Supporters in Annapolis before the vote

Supporters of offshore wind power held a press conference in Lawyers Mall in Annapolis in advance of the House vote.

“Maryland needs offshore wind power,” said Environment Maryland Campaign Director Tommy Landers, who released a report on the benefits of offshore wind in advance of the vote.

He said the benefits of offshore wind would be felt throughout the entire state in maintaining agricultural activity on the Eastern Shore and preserving forest lands in Western Maryland.

“Every region in Maryland stands to benefit,” he said.

Del. Tom Hucker, D-Montgomery, said the Republican opponents of the bill were running out of arguments to stop the bill, which would put 40 wind turbines 10 miles off the coast of Ocean City, Maryland. He said opponents were “entertaining and inconsistent” in their opposition to ratepayer subsidies, when Maryland has subsidized the coal and nuclear energy “for decades.”

Hucker said the $1.50 per 1000 Kilowatt-hour surcharge in the bill provides ratepayer protections that were not available when Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant and the major coal plants came on-line.

“This in fact the first time the legislature has weighed in and established ratepayer protections to make sure consumers get a great deal from this new energy source,” Hucker

Republican Primary Starts to Matter

The Republican presidential primary has become a dog fight for delegates to the August convention, putting Maryland in an unfamiliar situation — it actually matters.

“Probably the last time it was relevant was 35, 40 years ago,” said distinguished professor of history at American University and author of “The Keys to the White House,” Allan Lichtman, referring to the 1976 primary between Ronald Reagan and then-President Gerald Ford.

Maryland’s primary on April 3 is exactly three months after the first primary caucus in Iowa. Usually candidates have been selected by the time the primary comes to Maryland, but not this year.

The Republican primary has become a race to the magic number of 1,144 delegates that would give a candidate the nomination. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has the lead with 558 delegates, former Sen. Rick Santorum has 273, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has 133 and Rep. Ron Paul has 50.

“This is a contest for delegates and every delegate counts. And Maryland’s 37 delegates count,” said Lichtman.

Maryland’s delegates are allocated through a combination of a winner-take-all system and a proportion distribution. The primary is also closed, meaning only registered Republicans can vote.

Each congressional district has three delegates who must vote for whomever wins their district, while the remaining 13 delegates are awarded to the candidate who wins the overall state vote.

The delegate system may benefit Santorum, who could do well in Eastern Maryland’s 1st District, but Romney will likely win the state and the extra delegates, Lichtman said.

Romney has a 17-point advantage over Santorum, according to a poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports on Wednesday. It showed Romney is supported by 45 percent of Maryland Republicans, Santorum with 28 percent, Gingrich with 12 percent and Paul with 7 percent.

“Maryland is a more moderate state. It’s south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but it’s got very different politics than Louisiana,” Lichtman said.

Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans more than two to one and Maryland hasn’t selected a Republican president since 1988. Democrats are the majority in the state House and Senate, hold six of the eight congressional districts and retain both U.S. Senate seats, as well as the governor’s office.

Still this year, Republican candidates are visiting Maryland. Romney was in Arbutus March 21 to rally support in suburban Baltimore. Romney’s Maryland campaign co-chairman Louis M. Pope said so many people attended that 250 people couldn’t get into the venue, which holds about 350.

“We’re anticipating a good day on Tuesday…. Hopefully, Maryland will put him over the top. Hopefully, our opponents will begin to see reality,” Pope said.

Newt Gingrich spent Tuesday in the Old Line State, visiting near the State House in Annapolis and speaking with students at Salisbury University. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, is a co-chairman of Gingrich’s Maryland campaign.

On Wednesday, Ron Paul held a town hall at the University of Maryland’s College Park campus. One of the strongest cheers of the night came when Paul declared the fight for delegates wasn’t over.

“I know we’re not going to win Maryland,” said Ron Paul volunteer Brent Robbins, who added that Paul’s success lies with the district-allocated delegates. “I think we can get them here tonight… What they did in Virginia is they were able to get a lot of delegates when he came to Springfield.”

Santorum has not visited Maryland.

Last week’s early voting brought more than 76,000 Marylanders to the polls. This year’s election is not only a heated Republican presidential primary race, but a competitive race in several Congressional Districts.

“We’re seeing some really competitive primaries in our open districts — both the 4th and 6th,” said Matthew Verghese, Maryland Democratic Party political and communications director.

“I don’t expect it to be as high as it was four years ago, but I think we’ll have a real respectful turn out on Tuesday… making sure we have some gains here in Maryland so we take back the House and keep the Senate.”


For the 1st District Democratic Nomination

Given the significant boost Representative Andy Harris received with the addition of mostly Republican communities into the newly expanded 1st Congressional district, it is a bit surprising that three Democratic candidates have come forward to challenge him in the November election.

The Spy has been closely following two of these candidates, Wendy Rosen from Cockeysville and John LaFerla of Chestertown, at party forums throughout the district. They also have contributed to our “Ask the Candidates” articles over the last few weeks with mostly thoughtful and serious responses, and we are grateful to both campaigns for doing so. Sadly, the third candidate, Kim Letke, did not respond to our requests to participate.

Not surprisingly, both Ms. Rosen and Dr. LaFerla are in agreement on most, if not all, policy issues. Both candidates emerge as generally moderate, showing strong support for the Obama Administration’s Affordable Health Care Act, deficit reduction plans, Iran and Afghanistan, while also firmly in line with Democratic party positions on reproductive rights and same sex marriages. Whatever differences exist, they are not significant enough to highlight here.

They also share the fact that they are both political novices. While it is honorable and inspiring that Ms. Rosen and Dr. LaFerla have entered this race, despite limited resources or battle tested campaign organizations, they both face a steep, and at times painful, learning curve that inevitably handicaps both campaigns as they look to a fall election against Dr. Harris.

The only significant difference seems to rest on style. Dr. LaFerla, perhaps showing his years of consulting with patients, seems mild-mannered in tone, while Ms. Rosen displays a feistiness and passion that has served her well in the world of business. Both styles have positives and negatives in light of Dr. Harris’ own political weaknesses and strengths.

Where we believe Dr. LaFerla may have an advantage is with his experience related to national health care. As the oral arguments made this week at the Supreme Court on “Obamacare” made clear, there remains profound differences in this country on the methods and legal strategies needed to manage health care costs. A candidate that matches, or even exceeds, Dr. Harris’ own experience in the health field is a compelling reason to support Dr. LaFerla next Tuesday.

Regardless who wins the Democratic nomination, the road remains an uphill one for the victor of Tuesday’s election. Dr. Harris, no matter how misguided and extreme his political agenda might seem, remains a well-financed incumbent capable of an aggressive and well-executed campaign. We hope the successful candidate will continue to rapidly assimilate to the world of politics so that the fall election is a competitive one.

Cool Outdoor Stuff with Andrew McCown: Forage Radishes

Editor’s Note: To know Andy McCown, as thousands of Echo Hill Outdoor School alumni already do, is to know one of the great Upper Shore storytellers talking today. Through his love for the Chesapeake, a healthy dose of Eastern Shore irony, and an indelible sense of wonder, Andrew has enriched countless numbers with tales of nature, natural mysteries, and a very fragile ecosystem at still working hard against tremendous odds.

In a special series for the Spy, Andrew, and videographer (and EHOS alum) Wil Campbell, have started to share some of that wonderful storytelling with the launch of Cool Outdoor Stuff. From the delight of forage radishes in winter to the radical behavior of plankton in the Bay’s waters, Cool Outdoor Stuff taps into the soul of the Chesapeake once a month.

Episode One: Forage Radishes

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GOP Senate Candidates Hold Debate

Six Republicans vying to challenge U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin in November sparred over foreign policy, Supreme Court nominees and Obamacare at a debate sponsored by the state GOP and the Anne Arundel County Republican Central Committee.

Almost all of the candidates on the Republican primary ballot were at Thursday’s night debate at Anne Arundel Community College, days away from Tuesday’s primary. Dan Bongino, Robert Broadus, Rich Douglas, Rick Hoover, David Jones and Corrogan Vaughn all participated in the forum.

Here is Duane Keenan’s five-minute podcast from the debate. The full debate can be seen on video.

While the candidates had varying views on issues, they all agreed on one thing: It’s time for established incumbent Democrat Cardin to go home.

“The only reason I’m here is to beat Ben Cardin,” said Douglas in his opening statement,  invoking Cardin’s name more than any other candidate.

Democrats out of control

Bongino, a former U.S. Secret Service agent who has been on the campaign trail since last summer, said that Cardin and the Democrats are overusing their power. That’s why he’s running for office, he said. The Democrats, who Bongino said are trying to turn everything into a government-run program, are getting out of control. Beating them back, he said, is “the fight of our generation.”

“These people know no limits,” he said. “They will never give you a number on fair share because their fair share is everything. If you believe you and your family should have a say over your lives, they will follow you everywhere. Cede no more ground.”

Bongino said that he believes the “fair share” is a 16% corporate tax, and instituting a “fair tax,” which eliminates income taxes and payroll taxes, replacing them with a higher sales tax.

But taxes, which were a major component of the debate, are something that Broadus does not believe in. He shared his philosophy with the crowd: Get the federal government to stop taxing the people. Broadus, who called himself a former independent who used to vote Democratic – until he saw “that the Democratic Party was betraying me” – said that taxes are only permitted in the U.S. Constitution under the 16th Amendment.

He said that Congress should repeal the 16th Amendment, which would leave the American people with more money to invest in the economy. As for government programs funded with tax dollars, Broadus said that the U.S. should find private sector replacements.

“We really have to make some sacrifices if we’re going to save our country,” Broadus said.

Buy American

Jones, a single father who decided to run for the Senate to make his voice heard, had another strategy to save the nation’s economy. While he said that simplifying the tax code would be a good thing to do, Jones said that the problem runs deeper than that.

Many inexpensive products that Americans buy nowadays at discount retailers are made in other countries known for cheap labor costs. Jones said that if those products were made in the United States, it would create more jobs for Americans and stimulate the economy. He recommended people stop buying non-American-made products.

“If you buy American, that takes care of a lot of problems,” he said.

Douglas, a military veteran who has worked as staff counsel to the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and Intelligence committees, said that Cardin and what he called his “amateurism” in the Senate – especially in the area of foreign affairs – were the biggest problem that needs to be fixed. Douglas said he’s running so he can “bring dignity back to our Senate,” and summarized the race like someone who’s been involved in politics for a long time.

Asking different questions

“You should be asking your candidates different questions: about party loyalty, job security, and bucking your own party,” Douglas said. “You want to make sure who you send to Washington will do that and not fall apart at the moment of truth.”

Hoover brought a pocket-sized version of the U.S. Constitution with him to the debate. He said he favored stripping down the government to what was covered in the Constitution, including several government agencies he said were not doing their job.

“I’m not afraid of Ben Cardin. I am not afraid of President Obama,” Hoover said, holding up his constitution. “I answer to a higher calling.”

Vaughn told the debate audience that he also answers to a high calling. In fact, he said, he is the only electable candidate who can easily cross party lines. And, he said, he’d figured out the secret to why Republican candidates in Maryland tend to be unsuccessful.

“We overshadow the liberals here, and we are afraid to take them on,” Vaughn said.

By Megan Poinski

Saints Varsity Baseball Win Two More

The St Michaels High School Varsity Baseball team won their fifth and sixth game of the season after surviving challenges by two very tough division foes. 

Tuesday March 27, the Saints held off a strong Cambridge South Dorchester team at Cambridge with a five to zero final score.  Senior Bobby Schultz was the starting pitcher for the Saints and finished the game with 11 strikeouts utilizing only 75 pitches.  Bobby was assisted by great fielding with three double plays that kept the score 0 to 0 through the top of the 4th inning.  Lightning fast running by Zach Howeth put him on first base, and then he stole 2nd and following a wild pitch by the Cambridge pitcher held at third.   Howeth scored on a ground ball hit by Hunter Allen.  The score at the end of the 4th inning was Saints one Cambridge South Dorchester 0.  The Saints earned an additional four runs in the sixth inning and finished the game with a 5 to 0 final score.   When I got a chance to speak to the Saints Coaches, they all said the Saints played the best game of the season with strong pitching and superb infield and outfield play all around.

Thursday March 29 saw the Saints hosting the Lions from Queen Annes County.  Jake Griffin was the starting pitcher for the Lions and Brooks Harrison took the mound for the Saints.  The Lions started the game off by scoring two runs in the first inning, matched by the Saints in the bottom half of the inning.  Cleaver base running and a sacrifice fly allowed the Saints to tie the score at two.

In the second inning the Lions’ bats were active and they were able to add three additional runs to their score.   The Saints replaced Brooks Harrison with Zach Correa on the mound after a disputed call at first base that allowed the runner to stay in the game and the Lions to eventually go ahead Five to Two.  The Saints were only able to add one run to the score even after hitting two singles, a pop fly that advanced the runners and had the bases loaded when the third out was called.  The score at the end of two innings was Saints 3 Lions 5.

The Lions kept their bats alive with a triple in the third inning that added one run to their total.  The Saints were unable to match the Lions and the score at the end of the third inning was Saints 3 Lions 6.  With two outs the Lions changed pitchers and placed Cory Turner on the mound.

In the fourth inning, the Lions were unable to add to their score but the Saints were fortunate to score two runs bringing the score to Saints 5 Lions 6.  Chance Crissinger took advantage of a walk then stole second and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly to right field. 

In the fifth inning the Lions bats went silent and they failed to score any additional runs.  The Saints managed to sneak one run across the plate to tie the score at 6.

The sixth inning showed the Lions able to get one hit but failed to score any runs.  The Saints were fortunate to earn a walk to start off the inning then got two additional men on base and scored three runs on excellent base running and another sacrifice fly.  The score at the end of the inning was Saints 9 Lions 6.  To try and stop the Saints the Lions replaced the pitcher with Conner Kirby and then replaced Connor with Kyle Thompson prior to the end of the inning.

The seventh inning had the Lions start off with a single followed by two strike outs and ended the game with the score Saints 9 Lions 6. 

Kasey Nelson the Saints third baseman had three hits today and Zach Correa showed a great deal of poise on the mound with 11 strike outs in relief.

The Saints play away games at North Caroline on Monday April 2nd, then Kent County on Tuesday April 3rd.  The next home game is Tuesday April 10th  against Colonel Richardson High School.  The Game against Colonel Richardson will mark the halfway point in the season. 


Spy Profile: Printmaker Kevin Garber Is A Master

As Master Printer Kevin Garber walked me through his Bozman studio, my naivete about this art form and its versatility quickly became apparent. There is much more to the medium than I ever imagined, and after visiting with this talented artist, I have become a true fan.

Although several of Kevin’s prints hang on the walls, many are leaning against shelves full of art books, lying on table tops, neatly tucked away in levels of deep drawers, or propped up randomly throughout the sunlit room. There are prints in various sizes, colors and techniques. Some are monochromatic, some multi-colored. They range in subject from people to wildlife. None, however, lack in interest or creativity. “I love nature,” says Kevin. “Especially birds. This is my Valdez Crane; you know, from the oil spill.” He points to a large, somewhat dramatic image of the oil-soaked bird. It is extraordinary in its sheer uniqueness. Not all of Kevin’s feathered friends are recreated in such large scale. “I’m working on a series of smaller birds lately and it is great fun,” he says.

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What soon becomes apparent is Kevin’s versatility. Eyes wandering, I am intrigued by some beautiful, somewhat abstract, figure work. They turn out to be watercolor prints; Garber’s medium of choice. “I will work the image on a piece of grained Plexiglas, drop a piece of paper on top, run it through the press, and it transfers the image. The “guide” or drawing is underneath the glass.”

Beneath this artist’s humble persona lies an impressive background. Kevin’s art career began at the York Academy of Art in Pennsylvania (now known as the Pennsylvania School of Art) in 1976. He earned a Bachelor of Fine Art degree at Millersville University and his Masters at the University of Nebraska. It wasn’t long after graduation that Washington University in St. Louis “snatched him up”, hiring Kevin as a Fine Art print instructor, lecturer, and Master Printer of their Collaborative Print Workshop.

For the next ten years, Garber found himself working alongside internationally known visiting artists as well as his students on all methods of printmaking. “The majority of my work at the University was to publish the visiting artists and help them with their presentations.” says Kevin. “The shop would make a small edition of prints, the artists would take home half and the school would retain the other half. Since the program was funded, it allowed us to do some pretty cutting edge stuff.”

As if mastering printmaking were not enough, add sculpture, ornamentals, murals, and other large scale work to this artist’s repertoire. “After opening Fishing Creek Studios in St. Louis back in 1996,” Kevin explains, “I began seeking out site-specific public work. It wasn’t until my affiliation with another sculpture studio that I had the space required to take on large scale 3-D projects.” Working mainly with the architecture and interior design trades, Garber’s commissions began to include sculpture and ornament work for mixed use developments and other public art spaces.

Twelve years later Kevin did what many artists find the need to do – reinvent themselves. He and his wife, writer and photographer Kathy Bosin, moved to the Eastern Shore and began looking for new studio space. Kevin found the perfect spot in Wittman and quickly befriended his new landlord and custom furniture maker, Jim McMartin of McMartin & Beggins. “One day, Jim told me he had some of his late father Philip Martin’s woodcuts from the early 60s he wanted to show me,” Kevin recalls. “He proceeded to pull out a bunch of these things. One by one, I watched him reveal wonderful, stylized black and white woodcut prints of local history – particularly the watermen’s way of life. I was blown away!” Each sugar pine plank had been remarkably crafted, beginning with a line drawing into which McMartin would carve his vision. What ends up being printed is nothing short of amazing.

Now the “official publisher and agent” of the McMartin woodcuts, Kevin is currently working on printing a special edition of them for shows and collectors. He offers to do a demonstration of one and I gladly accept, awaiting the reveal with childlike anticipation. Relying on his upper body weight, Kevin presses down and rubs the wood with a piece of glass block. “Philip McMartin actually used a wooden spoon” he says, smiling. “It’s funny; I find that the smell of the ink lifting off of that wood and on to paper still excites me.” I can certainly understand why.

Kevin’s work can be found in the Kemper Art Museum and Island Press at Washington University as well as in collections throughout the country, including the Whitney Art Museum in New York City. He continues to work on developing new techniques and shares his love of printmaking through lectures and workshops.

The Philip McMartin print edition will be exhibited at the Art Academy Museum in Easton beginning April 5th. They will be custom framed by Jim McMartin and offered for sale.

To learn more about Kevin’s work or to visit his studio, call 314- 497-4244.

Food Friday: Berry Foolish

Here comes spring, and importantly, April Fools’ Day, and what better reason to cosset yourself with a foolish, indulgent dessert? Those crafty Brits have several foods with rather silly names, and for a long time I had only read about “Fools” without knowing exactly what they were. Discovering the true nature of “Bubble and Squeak” was such a disappointment. For such a long time I had pictured “Berry Fools” as very exotic and Willy Wonka-y, without the annoying tinge of blue.

Imagine my surprise to discover that Fools are simple, divine and easy-to-prepare – my main requirements for food. Plus you can vary them according to your own chimerical whims: are blueberries on sale this week? Go for it. Did you find a long-neglected raspberry bush in the back yard sprouting warm, luscious berries? Pick them right away! Do you have a package of frozen strawberries left in the freezer from last summer’s daiquiri binge? Perfect. And then there is the quintessential gooseberry, which I have never encountered in our markets, but perhaps you will…

Berry Fools are mashed up or macerated fruit, mixed into a heady combination with whipped cream. Some recipes add liqueurs, which you can do if you are feeling fancy. If not, perhaps you can add a drop of pure vanilla extract, or maybe a vanilla bean to build another layer of flavor. I have also seen some recipes that call for a little texture – and they suggest crumbled meringues. I so rarely bake meringues that this adds another layer of toil, with beaters and extra bowls to clean…

Berry Fools
4 cups strawberries or 3 cups blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, lingonberries, rhubarb (you name it!)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon orange or berry liqueur or vanilla extract (optional)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Gently rinse berries, no bruising, please.
Macerate the berries: put the berries, sugar, lemon juice and the liqueur or vanilla in a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let sit for about half an hour.
Use a large fork to mash the berries a bit, or swirl them in a blender for a moment. Set aside.
In another bowl, whip the cream until soft peaks form. Gently fold berry mixture into the whipped cream. Spoon into serving dishes, top with some leftover berries, or drizzle the mixture with the last drips from the bowl or blender.

Bubble & Squeak:

Eton Mess:

Rhubarb Fool:

April Fool Hoaxes:

“April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four.”
~ Mark Twain

Review: The Space Between at MASSONIART

“The Space Between” is an uplifting meditation on the nature of the universe from the vantage point of three artists, a painter, a draftsman and a sculptor. On view at Massoni Art through May 6, the stage is set by Greg Mort, an avid amateur astronomer, whose beautifully crafted watercolors depict stars and planets suspended in pure, luminous space.

Unlike the exquisitely rendered lace and apples Mort has become known for, these scenes come from the imagination. The planets lined up in a row facing their sun in “Proto System” mimic a textbook diagram but reflect in the mirrored surface of some kind of sea. The bubbles of a foaming wave in “Within–Without” are doubled in the field of shining orbs that take the place of sand on a beach.

Mort is a visionary fascinated with the twin threads shared by science and art—imagination and investigation. From a distance, his paintings seem to glow with starlight; up close, they’re alive with thousands of tiny brushstrokes. In painting after painting, he seduces his viewers into a reverie on the beauty and harmony of physics and cosmology. Although astronomy is obviously Mort’s primary subject, most of these works contain no definite reference to scale. They may refer to galaxies or just as easily, to subatomic particles, but either way, they suggest vast space, space that seems not empty but alive with natural forces yet to be understood.

Before their rotations and revolutions were quantified by science, the planets of our solar system were seen as gods. Like his father, Jon Mortis interested in the human urge to

Light Portal by Greg Mort (watercolor 23x21)

interpret the natural forces at work in the sky, but his subject is the mythology of the sky. Sharing his father’s fine rendering skill, Mort’s precise pencil drawings are wry portraits of the gods with their trademark trappings. Mercury is fast, the perfect messenger. There are wings on his helmet and ankles, and he leans impossibly forward into his long running stride. Mort updates the god’s image by elongating his body, a distortion predicted by Einstein’s theory of relativity as the god races along at near light speed.

The Mystic by Jonathan Mort (Graphite 24x37)

The younger Mort takes playful delight in spotlighting the attitude and charisma of each god. Holding a conch shell aloft, “The Mystic” (Neptune) has the stagey confidence of a modern-day magician in the act of conjuring. By contrast, “The Astronomer” is a confident, mature woman quietly observing the movements of a solar system balanced in her right hand. It’s curious that Mort outlines the edges of each figure, almost in comic book style. The effect is to isolate each on the white space of the paper, effectively denying the interactions that the senior Mort is so careful to portray. Whether it’s his intent to call attention to an historical lack of understanding of the interconnectedness of all things or whether it’s simply a dramatic device is up to the viewer to decide.

The inner realms of the cosmos are Shelley Robzen’s subject. Her recent sculptures carved from Carrera white marble or cast in bronze grew from time spent with her dying sister. Her experience led her to explore states of being that the living sometimes apprehend yet can’t prove or quantify. In her two most recent series, “Anima” and “Dancing in the Clouds,” she uses the strange alchemy of making heavy white marble seem weightless to evoke the hovering of the just released soul, followed by its joyous flight.

Her sculptures dance and lift skyward. Up close, their surfaces subtly sparkle like frost, as if the hard stone is caught in the act of evaporating. Both meanings of the word “sublime” come to mind. One has to do with a pinnacle beauty or excellence; the other is chemistry’s technical term for a solid substance turning directly into vapor. The white marble swells and dips, its undulations smoother and gentler than smoke. When its curves meet along ultra-thin edges, light glows through the stone. It’s a liminal image that conjures the soul still conscious of this world but touching into the next.

Robzen’s contribution is the most haunting and perhaps the most reassuring of these works, but all three artists invite much contemplation of our place in the universe. To further this inquiry, MASSONIARThas organized a symposium, also titled “The Space Between” to “explore humankind’s enduring quest to unravel the importance of what is seen and understood, but also the significance of what is absent.” Introduced by art historian Ambassador Cynthia Snyder, the

Dancing in the Clouds #1 by Shelley Robzen Carrarra (White Marble 18x17.25x13)

symposium panel will include Greg Mort; Dr. Richard Mushotzky, an astrophysicist and NASA X-ray astronomer; Tom McCabe, founder and CEO of McCabe Software, Rebecca Hoffberger, founder and Director of the American Visionary Art Museum; and Erik Neil, Director of the Academy Art Museum in Easton. Sponsored by the Kent County Arts Council, this free event will be held at Garfield Center for the Arts at The Prince Theatre on Saturday, April 7 at 2 p.m.

Loyola University Maryland to Launch Business Accelerator

BALTIMORE — Loyola University Maryland is launching a business accelerator, an initiative that will create a forum for the University to collaborate with local entrepreneurs interested in creating and building new businesses. The accelerator will be located in the Govans community in North Baltimore, just east of Loyola’s North Charles Street campus.

The project is a partnership with Wasabi Ventures, a California-based venture capital firm with a presence in Baltimore, which will provide professional staff to manage the accelerator, funding for start-up companies, internships for Loyola students, and the expertise of entrepreneur-in-residenceThomas “T.K.” Kuegler, Wasabi’s co-founder, general partner, and a 1994 Loyola graduate.

“This initiative allows us to advance two priorities deeply important to the University,” said Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J., Loyola’s president. “First, it creates new opportunities for our students to think creatively about new products, new markets, and the types of business, marketing, and expansion plans that will help young companies grow, and to apply these ideas to real-world organizations and the entrepreneurs behind them. For those with an entrepreneurial spirit of their own, it can give them a chance to get their own businesses off the ground. Second, it offers Loyola a new way of continuing to contribute to the revitalization of the York Road commercial corridor. Loyola is committed to contributing to projects that help improve the quality of life for all those living, working, and learning in this community, and helping to revitalize its businesses is a key part of that effort. ”

The accelerator will begin operating this spring out of property the University recently acquired on Winston Avenue, and hopes to relocate to a more permanent space along the York Road corridor proper in the near future. While University leaders and Kuegler and his partners expect to focus on technology-oriented start-ups given their growth potential, the prevalence of technology firms in the region, and the current State interest in supporting tech outfits, those affiliated with the project also welcome the chance to support lifestyle-oriented organizations that serve needs in the immediate community: bakeries, lawn service companies, or clothing manufacturers and retailers, for example.

“The University and its students, and those in the Sellinger School in particular, are already making contributions to the local business community through classroom service projects, independent studies, and internships,” said Karyl B. Leggio, Ph.D., dean of Loyola’s Sellinger School of Business and Management . “The accelerator and its resources will allow Loyola to contribute to the entrepreneurial growth in Maryland, will crystallize the work being done, and increase the scale of our efforts.”

Kuegler, whose company has an established connection to Loyola and its students, looks forward to building on this relationship as the accelerator further contributes to entrepreneurial efforts in Baltimore.

“In the last three years, Wasabi Ventures has provided experiential learning experiences to more than 100 Loyola students at companies in our portfolio,” said Kuegler. “By partnering with Loyola on the accelerator, we expect to expand these efforts, while also participating more actively in the broader emerging start-up community of Baltimore.”

About Loyola University Maryland:

Established in 1852, Loyola University Maryland is a Jesuit comprehensive university comprising Loyola College, its school of arts and sciences; the Sellinger School of Business and Management; and the School of Education. Loyola enrolls 3,800 undergraduate and 2,200 graduate students from across the country and around the world.

About Wasabi Ventures:

Wasabi Ventures includes two distinct but connected practices: Venture Capital and Startup Incubation. It funds entrepreneurs, starts companies, and helps existing businesses succeed. Wasabi Ventures takes active operational roles in its portfolio companies by leveraging its dedicated staff of more than 40 specialists. Its team of engineering, sales, marketing, analysis, legal, accounting, and management professionals can cover every one of a startup’s needs. The company acts as senior management to its start-ups and business consultants to those with companies who need advice. It also provides investment capital and creative financing solutions to chosen portfolio companies.

printed originally in CitybizList Baltimore