At the Academy: Brad Ross and the Art of Teaching Art

Since 2016, Brad Ross has been offering painting and drawing classes at the Academy Art Museum, in Easton, MD. Learning the classical approach to drawing and painting through his studies greatly influenced what he paints today. While at Maryland Institute, where he completed a BFA in 1991, he studied portrait drawing with Abby Sangiamo and figure drawing with Peter Collier. Between 1994 and 1995 he took evening and summer classes at the Schuler School of Fine Art in Baltimore. There he experienced a classical approach to drawing and painting and a taste of the way all artists learned their craft prior to the twentieth century.  The Schuler School is also where he had some of his first experiences painting outdoors with noted watercolorist Fritz Briggs.

Ross states, “Drawing from plaster casts was the most important classical training I had and the concepts learned from them influence everything I do. . .  Most of my fine art training at Maryland Institute College of Art and Montgomery College was modern in philosophy, so my later exposure to the classical approach at the Schuler School broadened, refined and grounded the modern approach from those schools.”

Over the years, Ross has gained priceless drawing and painting knowledge by taking workshops with great artists like Carolyn Anderson, Tim Bell, George Strickland, Abigail McBride and Teresa Oaxaca. From 1995 to the early two-thousands, his professional work focused on still life painting in the classical tradition, maintaining a relationship with La Petite Gallery in Annapolis, MD and Renjeau Gallery in Natick, MA.

He adds, “Throughout this time, plein air painting, portrait and figure drawing remained avenues for skill-building and personal enjoyment.”

In 2012 he registered for his first quick draw competition at Plein Air Easton and has participated in several local plein air events since then, winning prizes in Chestertown’s quick draws three times, and being awarded Best in Show and Artist Choice Awards at Paint Berlin, MD, in 2018.  This year, he was juried into the 15th Plein Air Easton competition and will be competing in that premier event, as well as several others in 2019.

Ross comments about his plein air painting, “For most of my life I’ve been a very hesitant painter, taking a long time to finish work.  Plein air painting is a great antidote for that. Light changes frustratingly fast and forces you to identify important elements quickly and make decisions, then keep that concept in mind as conditions change.”

He adds, “Plein air was important in dispelling the misconception that an artist is recording or copying a scene.  In order to get faster you have to think on an abstract, conceptual level. This has strengthened my painting in general.”   

This spring, Ross is teaching a few classes at the Academy Art Museum, including “Drawing the Human Figure” on Wednesdays, May 1–29, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and a Two-Day Workshop: “Oil Painting: Color Crash Course” on June 22 and 23 from 10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. each day.

Ross says about his portraiture classes, “Getting a likeness is pretty essential to portraiture and because of that it’s more demanding than other genres.  I love the challenge of conveying a personality in a drawing or painting and I love helping people tackle that challenge.”

For further information about classes taught by Bradford Ross at the Academy Art Museum, call 410-822-2787 or visit

Joyful Jazz at the Oxford Community Center Set for May 25

The widely-popular Jazz on the Chesapeake concert series returns to Oxford Community Center on Saturday, May 25th, with Sammy Miller & The Congregation—a performance that promises to be lively, energetic, and oh-so much fun!

Rooted in swing, the group’s portfolio spans the American songbook with toe-tapping rhythms and an all-around feel-good vibe—fittingly self-described as “joyful jazz.”

“We take joy seriously,” says bandleader Miller. “There needs to be more of that in the world.”

Sammy Miller & The Congregation takes the OCC stage at 8 p.m. Tickets are $50. It’s sure to be a sell-out performance, so be sure to snag your seat before it’s too late!

A Grammy-award nominated musician, Miller—who’s also the band’s drummer—is as passionate about mastering the art form as he is entertaining his audiences. It stems, he thinks, from playing music with his family during his childhood. When he was five years old, he and his four siblings started a family band.

“I think I picked the drums. I certainly didn’t resist,” he adds, laughing.

Back then, music was a communal endeavor that not only encouraged camaraderie between its members, but provided equal enjoyment for both the young artists and their spectators. It’s evident this experience translated into how he approaches music as an adult. According to Miller, it should be used to build and inspire community, not as a tool for exclusivity.

“That’s one of the deepest things about the tradition [of American art]—it’s bridging the gap between different people,” he says.

He also just wants the audience to have fun.

“I’m very into standup comedy,” he says. “My goal as an adult is to figure out a way to put these things together.”

Miller formed The Congregation shortly after receiving his Master’s at The Juilliard School, with the intent of providing a live experience—an avenue in which he felt he could entertain, enrich, and uplift audiences across the country.

“It’s that ephemeral thing that’s only going to happen one time,” he says, referring to the fleeting beauty of a live show. “I want to give people an impact.”

He recalls his experience as a child attending a performance by Ray Charles, describing how the show—albeit a short, but sweet five-song performance—had a profound impact on him. He believes that those experiences lead to personal connections and internal impressions that go beyond what a video or even, to some extent, a recorded song could elicit.

That said, the group is extremely excited about their upcoming studio album, which Miller says will be out before the end of the year. And while he wasn’t able to share too many details, he’s thrilled with the final production, which was recorded at United Recording Studios in Los Angeles.

“It’s the studio that Frank Sinatra was basically responsible for building,” he says. “We got to be in this room and the spirits were with us that day. It’s the first time we’ve actually captured the elements of what we do on tape.”

For now though, why not check out the real thing? Whether you’re a jazz aficionado or not, one thing is certain when it comes to Sammy Miller & The Congregation: You’ll leave their performance feeling much better than when you got there. It’s jazz music that feels as good as it sounds.

“I’ve been to enough bad shows, I would never put someone through that,” Miller says, with a laugh. “It’s going to be a great time!”

Catch Sammy Miller & The Congregation on Saturday, May 25th at the Oxford Community Center. The performance is presented by Chesapeake Music’s Jazz on the Chesapeake in partnership with Oxford Community Center. Tickets are $50. Show at 8 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit or call 410-819-0380.

Delmarva Review: On Being Enough (or Paris M’a Libéré) by Abigail Johnson

The morning dawned early and clear over the grey cobbled streets of Paris. Rosy golden sunlight crept over the tops of sleepy Parisian eaves, as I lay awake in my bunk, aware of the cold chill coming through my open windows. The pleasant noises of a city just were beginning to wake filtered through those windows. However, I had been woken up precisely at 6:55 a.m. not by those sounds, but by my iPhone softly playing one of my favorite folk songs, a tune laced with what I thought were the echoes of the most beautiful sorrow. A few minutes passed as I took in the beautiful chorus of a Paris morning, a smile reaching all the way down into my soul. My alarm suddenly sounded again, its biting yell worming its way through the haze of sleepiness coating my mind. Relinquishing any hopes of more sleep, I rolled over to shut my phone off. The time now read 7:00 a.m.

My sister Eryn stirred in the bunk above me, making the entire bunk sway and creak with a seemingly ancient groan. I slowly rose from my bed, shivering as I pushed aside my cozy blankets. Goosebumps stood sentry on my arms and legs as I ambled over to our small table in front of our tall, French-style windows. Truly, it was a sad little black folding table with brightly colored plastic stools, one grape purple and one bright red, but to me it had begun to stand for so much more. That table had quickly become my favorite place in the entire hostel. I’d lost track of how many times I’d sat down at that table in our wonderfully dinky little room and stared out at the narrow streets, savoring just being in the City of Light. I’d never been so far away from home before.

Thunk! I was broken out of my dreaming. Time and place came back to me as I turned to see Eryn jumping off of the bunk bed’s ladder.

“Morning!” I said with honey in my voice. She threw me a sort of good-hearted, pained grimace.

“How are you?” I tried again.

She gave a quiet chuckle and smiled, saying, “I cannot believe that you’re making me get up this early to go do this.”

“But it’ll be fantastic!” I promised.

“But it’s soooooo early, Abby,” she laughingly complained with a twinkle in her eye. “You really wanna do this? Like, it’s something that will break your heart if we don’t?”

“Yes!” I declared dramatically. “My heart will shatter into a million bloody fragments if we don’t!” I put a hand to my forehead and gave my best Oscar-winning sigh. Eryn shook her head and gave a good-natured groan.

“Hey,” I said, “Remember, it’s an experience.”

Her eyes started to glow. Got ya! I knew that my sister valued experiences above all else. The chance to experience something brand new always piqued her attention. Defeated, she grinned and rolled her eyes. “It’s a good thing I love you,” she said as she quickly grabbed her towel and clothes, heading off to lay claim to the bathroom before another hosteller could take it.

“Love you, toooooo,” I called out after her, turning my attention back to the waking city just outside of my window. Still mesmerized by its beauty, I happily sighed and reached for my clothes and makeup, relishing the day to come.

Twenty minutes later, dressed and freshly perfumed, we headed downstairs, grabbed croissants, said goodbye to the hostel cat, and flew out onto the street. The city welcomed us with open arms, calling out to us to come and see all of the little treasures hidden in her depths. Alas, time had a different plan.

“Eryn, it’s 7:23. It starts at 8…think they’ll let us in if we’re late?”

“I would hope so!” she giggled.

I tried to laugh along with her, but I couldn’t help but think about how crushed I’d be if we didn’t make it. We were still at least a half-hour metro ride away from our destination, after all. I walked faster, feeling the icy fingers of the cold stabbing through my thin sweater. My god, it felt like Christmas was in the air! There was a certain magic to this feeling, and I did indeed feel as though I was a child on Christmas morning. The feeling of the clock running down, however, lingered in my mind and propelled me forward.

We hurried through the streets to the metro, joining the friendly bustle of the city. We walked out of our home neighborhood, Montmartre: the historic artists’ district. We passed Parisians outside of warm cafes and bakeries, sipping espresso and munching pastries. We saw small grocery stores opening and women on their way to do their daily shopping. We saw young professionals, smartly dressed and braced for the cold, hurrying to work. Kids riding bikes passed us on their way to school, and cars cruised down narrow streets. People called out to each other, and friends walked the streets gossiping,

“Bonjour! Comment allez-vous?”

“Bienvenue dans ma boutique!”

“Alores je lui ai dit…”

The city was alive and dressed in the beautiful array of the colors of her people.

We eventually reached the metro and jumped down the stairs into the relative warmth of the subway-tiled tunnels. We giggled and chattered while we tried to figure out how to get tickets from the bright purple ticket machines. We plotted our route on the complex metro lines, and I kept tabs on the time. Eryn had been to Paris before, so I mostly let her handle it, letting myself be swept away by the beautiful, colloquial, and melodic French being spoken all around me by beautiful Parisians. I drank it all in greedily.

Eryn figured out the ticketing machine, and we went on our way, hopping from subway to subway in a race against time. Baby blue line to pink line, pink line to sun yellow line. Hurry hurry hurry. Faster faster faster! The tunnels seemed never ending.

We finally ended our journey on the yellow line. I glanced at my phone. 7:50. “Aghhh, Eryn! It’s 7:50!”

“Okay.” She laughed. “Don’t sweat it.”

We rushed out of our metro car, ran up the metro stairs, and found ourselves in a square in an older and quainter part of town. We quickly consulted our map, and it took us a little while to orient ourselves. Time: 7:55 a.m.

Walk faster. Walk faster. HURRY! No other thoughts but those. We speed-walked past tourists, small French soap shops, and more grocers. Jeweled heaps of sublime oranges, ruby apples, and emerald pears lined the streets. Keep going, keep going! The moments were speeding by me, wrapped up and laced with obsession and the mind. Yet, as we ran toward our destination, it suddenly hit me.

I am in Paris.

I am in Paris.


The me who grew so depressed at the thought of being stuck in my little town, George Bailey-style. The me who my well-meaning parents thought needed to be protected from the world at all costs (my father had even gone so far as to show me Taken before I left!). The neurotic me. The obsessive me. The me who needed to control it all. The me who was so sheltered and seemingly helpless. The me who had lusted after the dream of traveling the world.


I had traveled on my first international flight all by myself to get here. I had found Eryn, who was already in Europe, all on my own in a land where I did not speak the language. I had navigated both the complex metro system and Paris herself. I had planned this trip to Paris all on my own. I did all of that. Me. All to fulfill a dream.

I was not helpless. I was not dependent⎯at least, not as dependent as my parents had led me to believe I was. I was going places. I was here, despite everything, or rather in spite of it. I was enough…and I was in Paris. Running through the streets and running toward another dream. So why was I so worried about trying to be on time to a dream?

I found myself while running through the narrow streets of Paris. I let go of the conscious and surrendered to the moment. I let go of worry and just was. I forgot the clock and time itself…and it was one of the most spiritual moments of my life. I found myself while sitting beside those windows back at our hostel. I found myself while line hopping in the metro. I found myself while listening to the harmony of a foreign language.

Those were all the real me. The real me was wantonly running across a bridge over the murky Seine at 8:00 a.m., every fiber of my being screaming with joy. The real me was pausing to take a picture of that quiet, romantic river as the bells of a nearby church gravely tolled. The real me was outrunning the lies of helplessness and dependence, flying out of their midst on winged soul. The real me was late, beautifully late, and that was okay. The real me was running alongside my sister, whom I dearly loved. The real me was running past a sunken church garden, gloriously almost out of breath. The real me was jogging into the cobbled square just outside of Notre Dame, giggling and dodging people as I went. The real me was passing through her timeworn doors with my kindred soul, hearing the soft whispers of the just-begun Mass that graciously awaited our presence.

The time? It didn’t matter.

Abigail Johnson, of Delaware, is a gap year student with OneLife Institute in Central, South Carolina. A creative soul, dreams of travel and exotic adventure are never far from her mind. She spends her days baring her soul on the stage, scribbling out notes for a future novel, and devouring new reads with a hot mug of her favorite green tea by her side.

Delmarva Review is a literary journal of national scope, with regional roots. The nonprofit review publishes compelling new fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from authors within the region and beyond. It is supported by individual contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. For copies and information, visit the website:

Out and About (Sort of): No Longer Surprised by Howard Freedlander

New Zealand shooting
Academic scam
Jack Evans in DC

Mass murder, academic bribery and self-dealing by a District of Columbia city councilman– where does it stop? Who, or what is responsible?

We seem to have become inured to senseless human tragedy and severe ethical lapses. Cynicism has taken root.

We no longer seem surprised. That’s worrisome.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, in a rambling, theatrical sermon a few weeks ago at the 150th anniversary of the Diocese of Easton, preached that love of your neighbor and yourself would make God’s world free of bigotry, hatred and violence. His message is universal. It speaks to our “better angels.”

Sadly, it is unrealistic.

He was preaching to the choir. His 40-minute oration offered hope in a world filled with heinous intolerance. He offered humor and pathos. He revved up the troops to go out into the world as witnesses of goodness and grace.

The New Zealand shooter was driven by hatred against Muslims. He cared nothing about others who were different than he. He expressed his inner loathing through a deadly weapon.

At the other end of the spectrum is the troubling academic scam in which wealthy parents spent exorbitant amounts of money to gain entry for their children into elite universities. For them, everything had a price. Ethics be damned. Since they were devoted to their children and the power of money, the admissions process was fair game. Go for it.

“Love your neighbor” is meaningless to the NZ murderer and the ruthless parents of some college applicants. Bishop Curry’s words are worthless to those transfixed on mischief and mayhem. In the case of the parents offering bribes, fairness is the victim. In the case of the hate-filled shooter, love of, and respect for your fellow man are empty concepts.

So, it’s easy to rail about moral decay. In recent weeks, longtime friends have bemoaned our cultural degradation. They are concerned, as I am.

Rick Singer, accused in academic scam.

What do we do to reverse the moral rot?

I did some research. I’m not sure I came up with any profound answers or insights.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, speaking last May at the Rice University graduation, focused on the school’s honor code and called for honesty and accountability.  In striving to be honest, one would be honorable and refuse to accept political dishonesty and partisan spin. Simply, Bloomberg sought a higher standard of behavior than exists in the polluted public arena.

Bloomberg said, “When elected officials speak as though they are above the truth, they will act as though they are above the law. And when we tolerate dishonesty, we will get criminality. Sometimes, it’s in the form of corruption. Sometimes, it’s abuse of power. And sometimes, it’s both. If left unchecked, these abuses can erode the institutions that preserve and protect our rights and freedoms and open the door to tyranny and fascism.”

Pointing to the danger of partisanship and tribalism, Bloomberg said, “The more people segregate themselves by party, the harder it becomes to understand the other side and the more extreme each party grows. Studies show that people become more extreme in their views when they are grouped together with like-minded people.”

I’ve written before about the self-imposed restraints we place ourselves when we fail to listen to people with opposite views. We often demonize those who think differently than we. We remain cloistered. Our minds become closed.

We might shutter our hearts and push friends and family away.

Speaking in November 2005 on NPR about his newly published book, “Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crisis,” former President Jimmy Carter, a devout Baptist, condemned religious fundamentalists who believe they are right and chide those who don’t agree. He also pointed to the disillusionment with, and distrust of Washington politics. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Carter said,” In religious circles, fundamentalists are always powerful men who consider themselves superior to all others, superior to women with the subservience or subjugation of women. They consider themselves—a fundamentalist does—to be inherently directly related to God. Therefore, their beliefs are God’s beliefs, and anyone who disagrees with them at all have to be wrong or even inferior.”

The theme espoused by Carter underscores our society’s chronic lack of listening and dearth of compassion for those who think and act differently. Violence can result. So can corruption: our “better angels” have no audience in our souls.

Some speak about the widening gap in social and economic differences between the uber-wealthy, the shrinking middle class and the low-income people in our country. The opportunities for folks to gather in churches, civic groups and community activities seem to have diminished; people with similar political or cultural affinities associate only with themselves.

A sense of community diminishes.

When I think about the hate-filled shooter in New Zealand and his killing of 50 Muslim worshipers, the disgusting academic bribery and the unethical, self-enriching conduct of Washington, DC Councilman Jack Evans— I am appalled.

How do we become surprised again at outrageous behavior?

If I were to wage verbal war against cynicism, I would be tilting at windmills, overshadowed by naïveté. But just suppose that normal behavior meant being honest, expecting honorable conduct from our religious, political and corporate leaders and determining that college admission is not for sale, I wonder if moral decay, at the very least, might not spread and infect our culture.

This subject is fraught. What I consider rotten, someone else may view as normal. What I bemoan, others may commend and characterize as the human condition.

I am stumped. Unsurprisingly so.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland. Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.  

Washington College Plans for Second Piano Festival in April

In just its second year, the Washington College Piano Festival is giving high school and college students a unique opportunity to advance and develop their musical skills and talents. The one-day event, part of Washington College’s Department of Music, will be held on Saturday, April 20, 2019, at the Gibson Center for the Arts, and is open to the public.

Interested applicants were asked to submit a recording from a designated advanced or intermediate piano piece. Chosen participants will have an opportunity to meet other pianists, attend workshops, and take part in one-on-one lessons with faculty members. They will also be able to perform in a competitive concert in Hotchkiss Recital Hall for a panel of Washington College faculty judges. Winners will receive cash prizes.

Dr. Woobin Park

The idea for the Piano Festival came about during a lunch between two Washington College faculty member—Dr. Matthew Brower and Dr. Woobin Park. Park, a renowned international pianist, recalls learning about a colleague who created a piano festival in his department at another university. “We don’t have a piano festival here,” she said, “so why don’t we try to create one?”

The festival, which is being described as an ‘immersive educational experience,’ attracted internationally acclaimed guest artist Yong Hi Moon, Professor of Piano at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Moon will be teaching a master class during the afternoon and, as part of the Washington College Premier Artists Series, will perform a concert in the evening at the Decker Theater.

Park is excited about everything the festival can offer to a burgeoning pianist. It’s a beautiful setting, she says of the recital hall and the campus. The focus of the day will be on classical music, particularly the German repertoire of Bach, Beethoven, Shubert, and Brahms. “In the workshop class, we will talk about reality as a musician, [musical] careers, and how to practice. It will be unique,” Park says. “The world is becoming superficial. Learning about classical music gives people a chance to be in the ‘now,’ be in the ‘moment.’”

Park is no stranger to those types of moments. She has been playing for over 30 years throughout the United States and Korea and has performed in various prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall and Seoul Arts Center. Winning various competitions and receiving full scholarships for her outstanding performance and academic achievements, have allowed her to continue and expand her education and study under distinguished musicians. Park completed her Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) at the University of Minnesota. She is now a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music in Piano at Washington College.

As for the future, Park sees the Piano Festival as an excellent opportunity to invite other outstanding pianists and expand to different genres, such as jazz. For now, however, she looks forward to sharing her experiences with a new group of talented students. Her advice to them will be: don’t feel too comfortable. A little anxiety helps to convey the music effectively. “We need a certain sense of intensity,” she says. “Finding a balance between being relaxed and having anxiety, makes a perfect performance in a concert.”

For more information please go here.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.



At the Academy: Dressed to Kill

It will be a shock to most visitors to the Academy Art Museum current exhibition entitled “Dressed to Kill” which features Roman, Greek, and Hellenistic jewelry, helmets, vessels that are nearly 2000-year old, how remarkably contemporary much of it looks in 2019. With stunning examples of earrings, bracelets, and other fine jewelry, it is hard not to assume that these same objects might feel right at home at the AAM’s annual craft fair rather that centuries-old artifacts.

But, of course, that’s what the Academy’s director Ben Simons and curator Anke Van Wagenberg wanted the Museum’s guests to experience when they asked Guest Curator Sarah Cox to organize the exhibition.

The Spy talked to Ben and Anke a few weeks ago about the exhibition.

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

Delmarva Review: Ninety-three Pounds by Helen Sperber

She weighs ninety-three pounds. Her legs are drawn up against her body. Her hands clutch at anything they come in contact with, pulling it to her mouth, clenching it between her teeth. Her eyes are half open, unseeing.

An IV drips fluid and antibiotics into my mother’s arm. A catheter drains the fluid from her bladder and away from her body. A nurse comes in and holds a mask over her face, willing the mist into her lungs.

When the nurse leaves, my sister, Ruthie, and I hover over our mother’s gaunt body. We coax her to take nourishment from a straw. She takes the straw into her mouth but chews on it instead of sucking. She accepts a bite of pureed food from a spoon, but her tongue moves the wrong way, pushing it out of her mouth instead of moving it back into her throat.

She doesn’t know me, her youngest daughter. I live nearly 1,000 miles away, in Colorado, and only visit three or four times a year, so it is not surprising that she doesn’t recognize me. Ruthie lives nearby and sees her daily, but Mom doesn’t seem to know her, either. Maybe she just doesn’t care if we are there.

She is ninety-seven years old. For ninety of those years, she was one of the most capable, independent, and strong-willed women I have ever known. I saw her digging ditches and changing tires alongside my father at the businesses they owned⎯first an automobile service station, and later a mountain resort⎯and she taught herself the bookkeeping skills required to run a business. When Daddy died at age 50, she moved to California, where she became caregiver for her own mother and worked at a hospital for nearly twenty years to support them both.

For five years now, she has been unable to move around, feed herself, or communicate effectively. Extreme agitation, daily anger, and chronic pain have been only partially controlled with medications. The nursing home staff has provided total care for all her physical needs, feeding her, changing her diapers, turning her over in bed.

They brought her to the hospital two days ago with severe diarrhea, dehydration, a bed sore on her bottom, fever, low oxygen, skin tears up and down her arms. Now they have confirmed MRSA in the blood and are looking for C-diff in the stool.

My sister and I look at each other and shake our heads in mutual disbelief, tears welling up in our eyes. We’ve seen her like this in the hospital four times in the last two years. Why must this woman we love and admire so much endure what she is going through?

The priest comes to visit. He has already administered Last Rites. He understands that of course we wouldn’t want to do CPR or tube feedings, but he says withholding fluids in the IV would be a different story, and not condoned by the church Mother has been so strongly devoted to all her life.

The doctor consults with us. He can treat the MRSA with another antibiotic in the IV. She is almost fully hydrated again. How long? Six months?

Mother of God, why?

Every time I have seen her in the past two years, I have thought it would be the last, but at every crisis, treatment has bought her another six months.

Ten years ago, she lived with me for a while. With some assistance, she was still taking care of her personal daily needs then, although dementia and anxiety were causing her mental ability to fade in and out. She had purchased a prepaid funeral plan years before and carefully went over the details of it with me. She made sure both Ruthie and I knew where these papers were, and whom to contact with them when the time came. She had always been meticulous about planning ahead.

Finally, I remember. There was another paper she had shown me. She called it an “Advance Directive.” Where is that paper? Ruthie and I look for it among the files we have, but we can’t find it. It must be in her medical chart. We ask at the nurse’s desk.

They find it and bring us a copy. It has been with her chart since admission to the nursing home eight years ago. No one has ever looked at it. No one has ever even looked for it. No one has ever asked what she wanted.

It is very clear and detailed. She describes the conditions under which she does not want life-prolonging procedures administered: conditions she has been living with for five years. When these conditions are met, she specifically rejects even antibiotics and IVs, “even if this allows me to die.” Medication to relieve pain or provide comfort is to be given “even if it may hasten my death.” She worked in a hospital. She knew what she did and did not want.

My sister and I read it⎯over and over again⎯sitting beside her bed. She moans weakly, and I cover her contracted hand with mine. Ruthie has tears on her cheeks, and a quiet sob escapes her.

We give the paper to the doctor. He looks doubtful. You aren’t comfortable with this, I say. He hesitates. I could be, he says. I could be. We give him time.

He returns an hour or so later. It is very clear, he says. She made it very clear. He gives the orders, contacts hospice, and prepares the paperwork.Now she lies in her bed at the nursing home. Comfort measures only. Do not transport. No IVs. No antibiotics. Morphine as needed. A few days, perhaps a few weeks, they won’t predict.

She knew me today. She asked in a clear but weak voice, “When are you going back to Colorado?” The first complete, lucid sentence I’ve heard her speak in a long, long time. Am I imagining that I hear relief and comfort in her voice?

Still, I can’t answer her with complete openness and honesty. I tell her I’ll be leaving tomorrow and will come back when I can.

I wish I had told her good-bye.

Helen Sperber’s writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Diverse Voices Quarterly, Sanskrit, Meridian Anthology, and Front Range Review. Her novel, The Blue Wildebeest, promotes active living in retirement. Website:

Delmarva Review is a literary journal of national scope, with regional roots. The nonprofit review publishes compelling new fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from authors within the region and beyond. It is supported by individual contributions and a grant from the Talbot County Arts Council with funds from the Maryland State Arts Council. For copies and information, visit the website:

Mid-Shore Arts: The One Word is Plastics with Karen O’Dowd

Karen O’Dowd is a cutting-edge artist who, for the past 17 years, has used ‘found objects’ as a basis for her work. Like others in this genre, O’Dowd uncovers beauty and creativity in items not normally considered art elements, some of which are often designated as junk or recycled materials. Touring her Royal Oaks working studio, it is impossible not to be captivated with the originality and intricacies of the completed pieces that fill the available walls. The pieces are at times abstract, most often quirky. Then there are also the ‘art-in-waiting’ items on the counters; collections of cast-off materials that will eventually become treasured creations displayed in someone else’s’ home or garden.

This is made from plastic plant pots that have been cut into petal shape.

Not surprising, her search for items that could be incorporated into her art led her to become passionate about ‘recycling, upcycling and repurposing.’ She had used reusable bags for decades, knew not to buy bottled water, and was conscious about properly disposing of recyclable materials. But it was less than a year ago that a statistic changed her life even further. It said: By 2050, plastic in the ocean will outweigh sea life. “Once reading that I kept reading, she said, “and, every aspect of this plastic issue steamrolled into other horrific consequences. A year ago, I had no idea that plastic ‘lived’ 500-1,000 years!”

It was also disheartening to learn that the land mass of plastic in the ocean was twice the size of Texas and that a million birds and over 100,000 marine animals die yearly because of plastics. Frightening was also the description that 93% of Americans over 60 tested positive for BPA (bisphenol A), an industrial chemical often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles.

When her research confirmed that 91% of plastic produced was not recyclable, O’Dowd knew she had to do something. “I’ve been pretty environmentally conscious all of my life,” she said. “I’m very aware of social issues and know that we can choose to ignore or do something about it. I’m 68. I spent a lot of time at city councils, county and state meetings and commissions, boards, and testimonies. I’ve marched, sent letters to the editor. But I felt at this point in my life, I can change my habits and see where that led.”

What it led to was creating art pieces highlighting the issue and offering to do a talk to her Royal Oaks Garden Club about how to reduce the plastic footprint. Marcia Fidis, president of the club, suggested a workshop spin-off with the local Girl Scouts (Troop 961). The Girls Scouts would learn the information that O’Dowd had put together, and she would use her talent to help them create ‘fishes’ made from plastic bottles, which would then be attached to a 30-inch ‘nest’ made of items not recyclable in Talbot County. These items included composite ‘plastic’ bags, plastic utensils, broken plastic sunglasses, plastic straws (picked up from tables at restaurants), non-recyclable plastic pots, pump mechanisms from beauty products, etc. As the project began to come together, O’Dowd learned that this would also allow the Scouts to earn ‘Earth Day’ and ‘Using Resources Wisely’ badges. It was a win-win situation for all.

But, the collaboration didn’t end there.

It’s now evolved to include the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Through the end of May, the Plastic Nest sculpture will be mounted outside the entry doors to the Steamboat building. It will coincide with both the Sea Glass Festival exhibit and Community Day, which will be the public launch of the single-use plastic-free initiative on CBMM’s campus.

O’Dowd has to be pleased. Her workshop is touching and involving a new generation of future consumers; her talks to groups is bringing awareness of what can be done now. She hopes that others follow her recommendations or come up with their own solutions. “Be aware-it’s everywhere,” she cautions.

For now, O’Dowd follows her counsel. At home, she keeps a large canister on her sink (similar to a counter compost container) where she throws non-recyclable plastic. Once filled, it is moved into a large duffle bag. She hopes that within her lifetime she or industry will find some use for it. “If nothing else,” she says, “it’s a big reminder of how enormous this problem is, how much I need to try to purchase as much as possible with no plastic. Hopefully, we will enact legislation prohibiting or at LEAST limiting single-use plastic. Other countries have done it.” No doubt, until that day, O’Dowd will use her voice and her art as a reminder.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.


At the Academy: How Beethoven was Robbed of an Oscar with Rachel Franklin

Poor Alex North. He was the distinguished music composer who discovered at the world premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey that Stanley Kubrick, the film’s director, had replaced his work with Richard Strauss’s Zarathustra.

That’s just one of the tidbits that Dr. Rachel Franklin shares with her students at the Academy Art Museum as part of her larger theme of the use of music in film and, in particular, the use of classical composers in contemporary cinema.

The Spy sat down with Rachel last week in the AAM library to talk about this unique relationship. The case study she offered was The King’s Speech and the monarch’s speech to the British Empire at the start of  World War II.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. To learn more about the Academy Art Museum’s classes please go here


At the Academy: AAM’s Love Affair with Photography

If there was any doubt about the Academy Art Museum’s commitment to photography, the galleries of the art center in Easton this spring should put that concern to rest.

From a display of photographic additions recently added to the AAM collection to the exhibitions of John Gossage and Matthew Moore, the Academy has assembled a robust demonstration of the institution’s love affair with photography.

The Spy talked to AAM director Ben Simons and curator Anke Van Wagenberg for a small download on these three remarkable exhibits.

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

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