Celebrating a Decade of Plein Air in Easton

Ten years ago, the founders of the annual outdoor art festival in Easton likely didn’t know that they were building the foundation of what would be one of the country’s finest art events. Yet, ten years later, Plein Air Easton is known as exactly that.

We begin to spy the painters around Talbot County each year in mid-July, popping up in the unlikeliest of settings – in the middle of a grain field, or perched next to a tombstone in a historic cemetery. Yesterday, one plein air painter was seen on a tiny bench at the edge of the busy intersection of Rt 33 and the by-pass – looking as if a sudden wind might blow her off into the marsh. Always willing to interact with the public, plein air painters are ambassadors of the art world, allowing everyday people to step up and watch them bring life to blank canvas. The festival captures this spirit of appreciation for the art form and for the culture that surrounds it.

painting by the bypass painting at easton point JOhn B. Sills in garden Jill Basham

On Monday evening, I had a chance to meet two Connecticut painters who rode out of the St. Michaels harbor to paint skipjacks at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum aboard Island Lady, Jake Flory’s handsome deadrise. Island Lady runs sightseeing charters and tours around local waters in Bay Hundred. On the boat, Len Mizerek and David Bareford set up their easels and began painting just as a large thunderstorm loomed large to the west. They took different approaches to starting the work in the 20 minutes before lightning and rain chased us off the water. Bareford began with the architecture of the painting, the long straight lines of the skipjack’s mast and the bulkhead. Mizerek started in with color right away, capturing emotion and spirit.

Len and David painting aboard Island Lady

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David B painting

Len Mizerek painting

“Easton has the best Plein Air event, period” the two agreed. They should know. They’re both renowned lifelong artists who have painted in this tradition at events all over the country.

Plein Air Easton selects 58 carefully juried painters in total, and this year, they come from as far as Oregon, Washington, New Mexico and Canada, and as near as Easton and Trappe. Each painter selected represents the very best in the field. With almost $25,000 in prizes and opportunities to sell their work to hungry collectors, every painter in the event has a chance for a very successful weekend in Easton.

The festival continues through Sunday. It is headquartered at the Avalon Theatre, with speakers and demonstrations sprinkled throughout the community, from the Academy Art Museum to local shops and galleries. In its typical community-collaborative spirit, Rise Up Coffee has set up a pop-up cafe inside the Avalon Theatre. For the first time ever, the Theatre has been transformed into an information center and gallery, showing the work of all of the artists throughout the entire week.

There’s something for every art lover at the festival. From demonstrations and lectures to quick draw events in the heart of downtown, this week and weekend offer a continual stream of opportunities to get up close and personal to the art and artists. Organizers maintain an up to date map showing the painting locations of all 58 at all times.

Robert Barber

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blank canvas

The main events this weekend are the Quick Draw on Saturday from 10am – noon, with the exhibit and sale from noon – 2:00 pm. Last year, it was said that a painting was sold every 45 seconds during the sale. At 1:30 pm, the awards will be announced. Sunday’s Next Generation Quick Draw always attracts a crowd. Between 10:30 am and 2:30 pm, art will be created, shared, exhibited and sold on the street in downtown Easton.

For more information about the festival, head on into downtown Easton and immerse yourself – it’s one of our region’s most fun weekends and one of the nation’s best of its kind. If you’re an artist, bring $10 and step up to join in the fun. Stop by to congratulate the good people at the Avalon Foundation, because this too, like so many wonderful local events, is the work of the Avalon Foundation.

To learn more without leaving your seat, click here.

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Adkins Takes Big Step with New Facility

It took me about 30 seconds to remember why I love the Adkins Arboretum.  As I walked across the new entry bridge, I stopped twice for large bullfrogs, once when a large deer splashed through the marsh, and another three times to listen to the “plonks, poinks” and “BRAAPS” of other native frogs. So much life is down below that bridge! I was half tempted to go grab my boots and climb down in there.

But I was there to tell the story of their campaign, not to frolic with marsh creatures.

Delmarva’s treasured living museum, the Adkins Arboretum, kickstarted their capital campaign last week with a goal to raise a final $3,000,000 to complete their facility upgrade. As the only outdoor center on Delmarva to highlight our region’s unique ecosystem, the organization intends to raise 60% of the construction costs needed before putting a shovel in the ground in the fall of 2015. Led by Peter Steifel’s $1 million gift, over 50 organizations and foundations have joined hundreds of other donors in raising $4,500,000 so far.

The opportunity is great. With only one tiny multi-purpose room to serve as a gallery, classroom, seminar and conference room, the organization has managed to serve thousands of children and adults each year with opportunities to experience Delmarva’s unique natural heritage.  New infrastructure including a gallery, an open air classroom and a new multi-purpose pavilion will increase student participation in outdoor education by 500%. And that’s critical, in a time of heightened emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math education (STEM) in our region’s school districts.

The new space will allow the Arboretum’s extensive collection of books and publications to come out of a storage facility on Kent Island and be placed in the public eye – accessible to visitors and scholars. An outdoor classroom and open pavilion with seating for 200 will extend the organization’s ability to provide multiple offerings at one time. From musical performances to lectures, the new space will inspire with broad views, open access and handsome natural materials. The new gallery will allow for more art, more accessible to all.

Architect Andrew Hertig of Lake/Flato Architects presented his architectural designs on Thursday to a crowd of some 3 dozen supporters gathered in the small classroom that is the Arboretum’s entire public space at present. Describing the newly revised plans for gallery space, walkway, classroom and gardens, Hertig said that the re-design keeps all the functionality while addressing the new economy. His designs are inspired by nature and showcase the special place that is Adkins Arboretum.

The new facility will enable this organization to continue to nurture the environmental, cultural and social health of the region, connecting us all with wild Delmarva. From conservation landscaping seminars to nature walks, community lectures, art and native plant education, Adkins Arboretum has proven to be a Mid-Atlantic treasure. This is a cause to support.

You can learn more about the Arboretum here, see upcoming events and programs here, and support the campaign to build this living legacy for our community here.

The Steifel Center Bridge

The Steifel Center Bridge

The Caroline Pavilion

The Caroline Pavilion

 

The Marion Price Art Gallery

The Marion Price Art Gallery

Phase 1 Building Program

 

 

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Opportunity Knocks for Easton to Demonstrate True Hospitality

They say that you can judge a society by the way it treats its elders and its neediest citizens. This week, Easton has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, grace and civility by allowing the Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS) to open a year round homeless shelter at the site of Easton’s Promise Bed & Breakfast at 107 Goldsborough St.

On Tuesday, Easton’s Board of Zoning and Appeals will consider the TIS’ petition for a special exception to operate the shelter. As you might expect, not everyone is in favor of the idea. We are. Here’s why.

Every day, we read about the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots in this country. In our own county of some 38,000 people, 98 kids in our public schools were technically listed as homeless last year – meaning they didn’t have secure housing of their own. That should be unacceptable to all of us, and if there’s a local effort to stem that tide, let’s support it.

TIS is a outgrowth of this local community, it’s not some long arm of government or a national charity stepping into our turf, trying to push an unwanted homeless shelter on us. It was Talbot’s own citizens who stepped up to found the shelter six years ago, and who have gathered some 500 volunteers and resources enough to provide shelter to our county’s neediest neighbors during the cold winter months. The men, women and children who volunteer to help support the shelter are Talbot’s own. This is a local effort, fueled by compassion.

A “homeless” homeless shelter, TIS has spent the past six winters rotating cots, blankets, supplies and support through Talbot’s faith congregations. They have been looking for a facility to operate a permanent shelter for the past four years. With requirements for a built-in sprinkler fire suppression system, and room to shelter a changing population of men, women and children, it’s been difficult to find a building that’s an appropriate fit. 107 Goldsborough St. has an existing sprinkler system in place, six bedrooms and bathrooms, a large kitchen, and spacious living and dining areas. It will allow TIS to open as soon as possible, without any building modifications.

The building at 107 Goldsborough is in the central business district, easy for shelter guests to access local resources, transportation and walk to jobs in the district. That central location can facilitate a roundtable of social service and other professionals to help provide the services that TIS’ homeless guests need in order to get back on their feet and into independent housing of their own.

And there’s something exceptionally civil about using a beautiful, historic B&B as a place to shelter our neediest neighbors while they reorganize their lives in order to become independent again. The messy problems that cause homelessness – divorce, death, illness, job loss, abuse, mental health problems – require respite, some hands-on assistance, and support. Why shouldn’t that support take place in the center of our town, in a safe and comfortable setting?

Easton can take pride in this effort. Our homeless neighbors won’t be shoved off to some corner, but welcomed into the very heart of our community. We have a chance right now to become known as a leader in hospitality, in the broadest way possible. What a powerful way to do something right.

Kathy Bosin

Kathy is a member of the Board of Directors of the Talbot Interfaith Shelter.

Opportunity Knocks for Easton to Demonstrate True Hospitality

easton's PromiseThey say that you can judge a society by the way it treats its elders and its neediest citizens. This week, Easton has an opportunity to demonstrate leadership, grace and civility by allowing the Talbot Interfaith Shelter (TIS) to open a year round homeless shelter at the site of Easton’s Promise Bed & Breakfast at 107 Goldsborough St.

On Tuesday, Easton’s Board of Zoning and Appeals will consider TIS’ petition for a special exception to operate the shelter. As you might expect, not everyone is in favor of the idea. We are. Here’s why.

Every day, we read about the growing disparity between the haves and the have-nots in this country. In our own county of some 38,000 people, 98 kids in our public schools were technically listed as homeless last year – meaning they didn’t have secure housing of their own. That should be unacceptable to all of us, and if there’s a local effort to stem that tide, let’s support it.

TIS is a outgrowth of our local community, it’s not some long arm of government or a national charity stepping into our turf, trying to push an unwanted homeless shelter on us. It was Talbot’s own citizens who stepped up to found the shelter six years ago, and who have gathered some 500 volunteers and resources enough to provide shelter to our county’s neediest neighbors during the cold winter months. The men, women and children who volunteer to help support the shelter are Talbot’s own. This is a local effort, fueled by compassion.

A “homeless” homeless shelter, TIS has spent the past six winters rotating cots, blankets, supplies and support through Talbot’s faith congregations. They have been looking for a facility to operate a permanent shelter for the past four years. With requirements for a built-in sprinkler fire suppression system, and room to shelter a changing population of men, women and children, it’s been difficult to find a building that’s an appropriate fit. 107 Goldsborough St. has an existing sprinkler system, six bedrooms and bathrooms, a large kitchen, and spacious living and dining areas. It will allow TIS to open as soon as possible, without any building modifications.

The building at 107 Goldsborough is in the central business district, easy for shelter guests to access local resources, transportation and walk to jobs in the district. That central location can facilitate a roundtable of social service and other professionals to help provide the services that TIS’ homeless guests need in order to get back on their feet and into independent housing of their own.

And there’s something exceptionally civil about using a beautiful, historic B&B as a place to shelter our neediest neighbors while they re-organize their lives in order to live independently again. The messy problems that cause homelessness – divorce, death, illness, job loss, abuse, mental health problems – require respite, some hands-on assistance, and support. Why shouldn’t that support take place in the center of our town, in a safe and comfortable setting?

This homeless shelter has already been in operation in the historic district for six years without complaint – just two blocks from Easton’s Promise, in multiple locations including next to the Academy Art Museum. Has there been a problem with the shelter or its guests? No.

Easton can take pride in this effort. Our homeless neighbors won’t be shoved off to some corner, but welcomed into the very heart of our community. We have a chance right now to become known as a leader in hospitality, in the broadest way possible. What a powerful way to do something right.

(Kathy Bosin is a member of the Board of Directors of the Talbot Interfaith Shelter.)

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Talbot Stays Home During Winter Storm Titan

Few cars were out on Talbot’s roads this afternoon as Winter Storm Titan’s snowfall continued. Changing to snow from freezing rain at daybreak this morning, total accumulation at mid-afternoon is under 5 inches. Between McDaniel and Easton, few cars but many snow plows were seen. Primary roads have been salted, and traffic was moving at around 35 miles per hour on the St. Michaels Road to Easton this afternoon. The snow is expected to taper off by late afternoon, with as much as an additional two inches predicted.

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St. Michaels Commissioners: “This Is Democracy At Work”

The Commissioners of St. Michaels met Wednesday with town attorney Chip McLeod to discuss their options in responding to the referendum vote on Feb 3rd, in which voters defeated the town’s ethics ordinance. Later that evening, McLeod was on hand at the regular working session of the town Commissioners.

“This is democracy at work” said President Michael Vlahovich, “the people have spoken.” As a result of the election, the town’s ethics ordinance reverts to the previous chapter 22 of the town code, which is not in compliance with the ethics law mandated by the state in 2010.“The outcome of the referendum vote puts the town in a special position; this doesn’t happen often,” said McLeod.

In September of 2013, the Commissioners adopted the state’s “Model B” legislation designed for small jurisdictions to meet the requirements of the 2010 state ethics law. With over 20% of the town’s eligible voters petitioning against that measure, the ordinance was taken to referendum and defeated. Now the town is in a unique position, being forced by the town’s voters to step out of compliance with the state law.

The Commissioners will send a letter notifying the state ethics board of the outcome of the town’s election. It is expected that they will ask for a re-consideration of the exemption that was denied by the state commission last year. The Commissioners may ask for a hearing with the state ethics commission to explain their unusual situation. “The referendum itself was so compelling” said McLeod, “that even though the town isn’t entitled to a hearing, the state ethics board may be willing to grant one.”

With the resignation of town Commissioner Thomas “Tad” duPont last fall as a direct result of the impending legislation, and now the outcome of the referendum, St. Michaels’ situation demonstrates solid evidence that the law has caused a chilling effect on potential town leaders.

St. Michaels isn’t the only small town to take exception to the ethics law, which holds all elected officials in any town in the state to adhere to the exact same conflict of interest and financial disclosure requirements as those elected to statewide office. Small towns across the state petitioned the state ethics board for exemptions – and some 80 towns were granted exceptions to the law.

According to McLeod, the concern that small towns have about attracting and retaining local leadership under the requirements of the new law has been resonating around the state. Gaithersburg has been a leader in the effort. Unrelated to the St. Michaels referendum, Democratic Senator Jamin Raskin, along with nine co-sponsors, has introduced new legislation (SB 913) that could ease the financial disclosure portion of the ethics mandate. A hearing on that bill will be held at 1:00 pm on February 27 in the Senate Chamber in Annapolis.

St. Michaels Voters Say No to State Ethics Mandate

With less than 20 percent voter turnout on Monday, residents in St. Michaels voted 78-57 in referendum to kill an ordinance passed in September that requires local elected officials and appointees to make the same financial and conflict-of-interest disclosures as state officials.

The ordinance was required by the Maryland State Ethics Commission to bring the town into compliance with a 2010 ethics law–but voters rejected the law based on privacy concerns and the desire to keep ethics rules under local control.

The financial disclosure requirements caused the resignation of Commissioner Thomas “Tad” duPont last September.

As a result of the referendum, the town is now out of compliance with state law and the commissioners will likely take up the matter at the Feb. 12 meeting.

The commissioners may try to petition the Ethics Commission for an exemption to the law but earlier appeals have been rejected.

If the state again rejects the town’s bid for an exemption, the ordinance 429 will likely become law.

 

St. Michaels To Hold Referendum Vote on Ethics Issue Feb. 3rd

St. Michaels voters will address the years-old question of the town ethics code on Monday, February 3rd in a special election.

The special election is a result of a petition signed by 172 town voters  (over 20% of registered voters) last fall to hold a referendum vote on the issue.

Although St. Michaels has had an ethics code in place since the 1980s, the town, like every other town in Maryland, has been forced by a 2010 state law to adopt a new ethics code. In 2012, the State Ethics Commission offered two proposed codes – one named Model A (for large jurisdictions) and another named Model B (for smaller towns)  as sample ordinances that it would accept from Maryland towns to address the new state law’s intent.

At issue has been the requirement of the new law that all elected officials even in small towns abide by the same conflict of interest and financial disclosure requirements as statewide officials. Opponents say that this requirement is onerous, shouldn’t apply to small jurisdictions, and will only push potential leaders away from considering service in rural settings like St. Michaels. Supporters believe that any ethics regulations appropriate for statewide office should apply across the board to all elected officials anywhere.

St. Michaels Commissioners and the town’s Ethics Commission spent well over two years discussing and debating how to handle the required changes. Most small towns across the state applied for exemptions to the new law. St. Michaels’ request for exemption was denied by the State Ethics Commission.

The issue has been contentious enough that it resulted in the resignation of Commissioner Thomas (Tad) duPont in early September, 2013. On September 11, 2013, at a meeting in which duPont’s replacement was sworn into office and town people expected further debate on the issue, President Michael Vlahovich called for a vote on the adoption of Model B as the town ethics code. At that meeting, the Commissioners voted 3-2 to adopt the state’s Model B sample legislation. It was that vote and President Vlahovich’s refusal to hear Mr. duPont’s testimony that prompted the town’s opponents of Model B to seek a referendum.

For more information and history on the issue, see previous Spy coverage here, here, here, here, here, here, here, herehere, and here.

If the townspeople vote to overturn the Commissioners’ decision to adopt Model B, the town may then return to the State Ethics Commission, asking for a reconsideration of the town’s exemption. In any case, the final decision on the issue lies with the State Ethics Commission, who could stand by their previous denial of the exemption, forcing St. Michaels to adopt the Model B ordinance once and for all.

Voting will take place on Monday, February 3rd in the Edgar M. Bosley, Jr. Municipal Building (Town Office), 300 Mill Street, St. Michaels, MD between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

 

 

 

BAM!

I woke early to the sound of gunshot – CRACK CRACK! Then – POP! – from the other side of the house.

It was barely dawn. I popped open the iPhone and it said 6:37 am, and “freezing rain”.

Really? We’re goose hunting in the dark, icy rain?

Yup.

The gun thing around here is pervasive. They’re everywhere. I’m not startled anymore to see men with shotguns walking along the road. Yes, it’s a rural county, and certainly, the local culture is deeply rooted in the land and in local food. Waterfowl, deer, fishing and trapping. Next month, Dorchester County celebrates the great outdoors with a giant muskrat festival culminating in skinning competitions and a beauty contest. Really. And after five years, I’m still not sure I’m ready to see it. Oh, I love the idea, but each year, even though it’s on my calendar, I never seem to get in the car to go.

Why?

Intellectually, I’m all over this local food thing, believe in eating from our own foodshed, supporting local fisheries and local agriculture. I’ve been involved forever, helping build gardens on vacant land in cities, even sitting in the USDA’s first food security conferences way back in the early 1990s, when people were just starting to talk about CSAs and GMOs and urban food deserts. I’ve sat in combines with local farmers and climbed aboard Chesapeake deadrises at o-dark-thirty to go for the day’s catch.

But I’m a product of suburban American culture, and even though I have a master gardener certificate and raised beds in my yard, I only take personal responsibility for a tiny fraction of the food I eat. Yes, I sautéed greens from the garden this week and ate some oysters from the creek, but my frig is mostly filled with cheese from God knows where and vegetables from the other side of the nation and South America. I still like those frozen industrial black bean burgers you can buy in big bags at Sam’s Club, even though I hate Sam’s Club.

And the idea of watching how fast someone can skin a muskrat…

…oh, dear.

What a confusing contradiction!

I’m so full of it.

BAM-CRACK-POP!

At least somebody’s eating locally tonight.

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The Hawkman Of Tilghman

Eric Werner cover

When Tilghman Islander Eric Werner talks to Kimber, the young red tailed hawk he’s training, he swoons. And although the relationship between them looks personal, it’s not. “This isn’t like a bond with a dog or a cat” he said, “this is a professional relationship.”

He steps away from her perch inside of his large workshop, and cuts up some venison into tiny strips.

The bird stares at me, spins her head and blinks.

Majestic. Fierce looking.

I walk up to the perch. We’re face to face. That beak looks very sharp, but her eyes are steady. We stare at each other.

kimber close up2

It’s not often we get to be so close to wild animals like this. The DNR or conservation groups sometimes show up at the county fair with owls, hawks and such, but most of those creatures are old and maimed and used to being around people. This one is a youth – a perfect young specimen red tailed hawk. And with the exception of a couple trips into the Eastern Shore Brewing Company in the past month, this young bird is just now learning about people.

Now that he’s got her, Werner’s job now is to train her to hunt with him.

There’s nothing new about the sport of falconry, in fact, it’s over 4500 years old. Known as the “Sport of Kings”, falconry continues today in much the same way as in King Tut’s day, and is practiced all over the globe. In some places, falconers use golden eagles to hunt wolves. An avid outsdoorsman, Werner hunts with hawks, guns, rods and reels and bows. The bird is simply a different weapon for game. “But, just being close to these magnificient birds all the time is the real reason I do it” he said.

walking with bird landing - outside

Werner first watched a falconer work with a sparrow hawk 35 years ago, and really got hooked in 1997. In the 16 years since, he’s worked with over 30 different birds, from kestrels and falcons to hawks of different species.

Born in April, Kimber was out of the nest in the beginning of June, and was trapped in October. Werner will work with her throughout the winter – training, hunting, observing, learning – and will let her go in the spring. (He doesn’t actually know the bird’s sex, as it’s impossible to determine visually.) Falconers can only take immature birds, not ones of breeding age.

A federally regulated sport, falconry is quite popular in Maryland, with some 130 registered falconers. There are about 3400 falconers in the US. Most hunt with the birds, and for many, helping the young birds through the most vulnerable year of their lives is part of the attraction. “60% of red tail hawks die in their first year” said Werner “from cars, electric wires, glass windows, farmers. By keeping them through their first winter, we give them a better chance to make it.”

flying indoors

Hawks have binocular vision, says Werner, and he explains that they can see the same detail in an object 100 feet away that we see at 10 feet. He’ll take her hunting and flying most days during the winter, being careful to monitor and keep her weight around 920 grams.

He brings over a pellet. “This is what’s left of a rabbit” he said. It was about the size of a tootsie roll, just hair and bone bits. “That was lunch on Thursday” he said.

I inspected Kimber’s kangaroo hide jesses and cuffs up close. She wears bells on each cuff that ring different tones, so he can find her when she dives straight into brush. He can repair her bent feathers, even attach new sections of feather using a hypodermic needle, if necessary. Every feather counts when it comes to precision flight and hunting. Her claws are exceptionally sharp.

hawk claw

Anyone interested in pursuing falconry as a sport can see the Department of Natural Resources website, where permits are offered after a two year apprenticeship and education. There’s a lot to learn about the wild raptors.

“As falconers, we’re ambassadors to wildlife” Werner says.

So, when you’re out and around Bay Hundred this winter, don’t be surprised if you see Werner and Kimber. She travels in a cage in his SUV, and might be found soaring above a field, sitting on his gloved hand, or just maybe, sitting in a public location, where you, too, can stare right into those sharp golden eyes. You’ll feel one step closer to nature.

eric werner and kimber in parking lot

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