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.

25 Years of Light, Water and Stone with Greg Mort and Shelley Robzen

Over the next several months, Massoniart and its owner Carla Massoni will be celebrating thirty years of exhibiting some of the best artists in the Mid-Atlantic region. It is a remarkable achievement for Carla and the greater Mid-Shore that this exceptional gallery, which could easily have been at home in the art districts of Washington or Philadelphia, will be shortly be entering its fourth decade.

And yet perhaps one of the most fitting tributes for this anniversary for Massoniart is actually one that celebrates two of the gallery’s most distinguished artists, painter Greg Mort and sculptor Shelley Robzen.

For twenty-five years, these peerless artists have shown their work together even though they have never collaborated in the true sense of the word. United by Massoni’s famous matchmaking skills, Greg and Shelley’s work seamlessly complimented to each other’s work through by their masterful use of light and structure without any premeditation or planning on their part.

But after twenty-five years, it was in Carla’s nature to shake it up a bit. For the first time, she asked the artists to compared notes and images or their work before their joint exhibition Light Water and Stone opened. Their challenge – no small task – was to capture the invisible element of light.

Last Saturday, the Spy visited with Greg and Shelley at Massoniart to talk about their twenty-five years with Carla, their work, and how they have attempted to satisfy this exciting challenge.

There will be numerous opportunities to meet with the artists including the Opening Reception on Saturday, March 30, 12-3 pm. The Chestertown April First Friday reception Friday, April 5, 5-7:30 pm.  An Artist Talk on Saturday, April 6 at 12 noon. And the closing reception on May First Friday, May 3, 5-7:30 pm.Private appointments may be scheduled and groups are welcome.  Contact: Carla Massoni, 410-778-7330, info@massoniart.comFor additional information please visit:


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

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

Art Review: The Academy Art Museum’s Three Exhibitions Become Four by Steve Parks

The Academy of Art Museum transforms itself into a time machine, taking passengers as far back as 6th century B.C. all the way up to 21st century A.D., with three exhibits that are really four.

The large galleries that flank the museum lobby are devoted to “Recent Acquisitions: Photography @ AAM.” Among high-profile names in the space to the right is living artist Bruce Nauman, who says of his art, “I’ve never been able to stick to one thing.” Instead, he does it all—painting, sculpture, photography, video, neon, printmaking, neon. At AAM, he’s the subject of his own art—distorting facial features shot by Jack Fulton and printed with a textured bronze finish onto four funhouse images.

Cockeyed Lips by Bruce Nauman

Others in this collection, selected by curator Anke Van Wagenberg, include black-and-whites you’d expect from Ansel Adams’ aesthetic for natural beauty and Berenice Abbott’s documentary-style stills of urban life. But many of us, myself included, may pause longest at Ed Clark’s 1958 photo of the future president peering into his daughter’s eyes in her bassinet. 

JFK and Caroline by Ed Clark

Crossing the lobby into another gallery of “Recent Acquisitions”—all by John Gossage, among the foremost living American photo book-makers—are displayed along with a copy of the volume, republished in 2010 on the 25th anniversary of “The Pond.” The 47 images capture the counter-beauty of a neglected wooded area hidden in suburbia. Gossage’s project has been described as “a foil to Henry David Thoreau’s ‘Walden Pond.’ ” Hardly idyllic except for its unattended isolation. If you’re into that.

Upstairs, “Matthew Moore: Post-Socialist Landscapes” recall the Cold War era some of us glimpsed on black-and-white TV. But these scenes derive from Moore’s 2014 artists-in-residence at Lithuania’s Nida Art Academy. His haunting frames reveal urban and rural spaces in countries once occupied by the Soviet Union. Among these are “Discarded Icons: Memento Park, Hungary” with busts of Stalin and Lenin glowering in prison-like storage. Another “Discarded Icon” in Estonia finds a severed sculpture-head of Lenin sprouting from the ground in weeded obscurity. Other images reveal platforms in former Russian-dominated republics from which Stalin and Lenin statuary once commanded the view. Ominous superpower threats are amplified by shots of abandoned missile sites and forgotten nuclear bunkers.

Discarded Icon by Matthew Moore

Combat is hand-to-hand in the small first floor galleries where “Dressed to Kill in Love and War: Splendor in the Ancient World” resides on loan from New York’s Fortuna Fine Arts. Objects from centuries on either side of the birth of Christ feature Roman Empire warrior helmets, Greek and Hellenistic jewelry and decorative objects, plus photos of reliefs inspired by battle heroism and mythology. The exhibit’s romantic aspect is reflected in precious-metal jewelry rewarded to love interests of men on the winning side. If you really could go that far back in time, decline and stay safe at this under-glass peek. No cells, no indoor plumbing, no artillery to clear a path for your warhorse.

“Dressed to Kill in Love and War: Splendor in the Ancient World” Through March 31.“Recent Acquisitions: Photography @ AAM” and “Matthew Moore: Post-Socialist Landscapes” Through April 7, all at Academy Art Museum, 106 South St. Easton,, 410-822-2787

Steve Park is a former art and theatre critic for Newsday on Long Island. He now lives on the Mid-Shore of Maryland. 



Mid-Shore Arts: When Art and History Meet with Jason Patterson

College towns are typically blessed with, and perhaps even a bit dependent on, the academic version of “twofers.” With each talented faculty member recruited, there is a good chance that an equally gifted spouse or partner will be part of the package.

Examples in Chestertown are endless of this form of collateral benefits. A recent case came to mind when the Spy announced that Sabine Harvey, wife of Washington College’s Dr. Michael Harvey, had been appointed to run Chestertown’s beloved farmers’ market. This was just the latest of Sabine’s remarkable contributions to Kent County agriculture and gardening.

And this is undoubtedly the case with the arrival of Dr. Meghan Grosse,  a professor with the College’s communication and media studies program. Dr. Grosse’s partner, artist Jason Patterson, agreed to make the move East from his native Campaign-Urbana in Illinois and now has his studio in Chestertown.

In the months that followed his arrival, Jason almost immediately became Kent County Arts Council’s first artist in residence. A few months after that, he was invited by Sumner Hall to exhibit his art (on display until March 24), and around the same time became a Frederick Douglass Visiting Fellow at WC’s Starr Center.

The Spy sat down with Jason at the Spy HQ in Chestertown for a quick chat about his work and the unique opportunities that come when art connects with history.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. More information about Jason Paterson’s art work can be found here.

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