For over 20 years, Easton’s East End resident and artist, Josepha Price, has watched her neighborhood grow. As it evolved, Price fully integrated into the area. She raised her children, bought a home, opened an art studio, and taught art there. For years she envisioned an art, music, and food fair that would celebrate the diversity and the culture of the community. A chance conversation this past January with community organizer and East End resident, Carolyn Jaffe, set into motion, six months later, the unveiling of the Easton Arts District Culture Crossing along the Easton rails-to-trails.
It started with an invitation to attend a Town Council meeting. She was there to support the efforts of Discover Easton’s Executive Director Ross Benincasa and Jeff Lankford, to have Easton designated as one of two new Arts and Entertainment districts in MD. “I find out,” says Price, “that the area they’re proposing to be the A&E district is actually the heart of it, the east end and in particular the Dover Street corridor. And you know, that’s where my kids have lived their whole lives.”
Price next met with Benincasa and Lankford. “We had this discussion about there’s this whole space right here, the rails-to-trails. It’s got space, parking, grass, asphalt, and shade. It’s visible. And there’s a lot of cultures down in that area that haven’t been explored or represented.” She spoke about wanting to reach these unrepresented artists. But more importantly, she told them, she wanted a place that celebrated the diversity and ethnicity of Easton’s neighborhoods. When Easton received the A&E designation, it was only natural that Price was asked to spearhead the first event.
After navigating through the unknown territory of advisory boards and town councils, and with the help of Director of Parks and Recreation, Lorraine Gould, and Ward 1 Council Rep, Megan Cook, Cultural Crossing made its debut on Saturday, July 13, 2019. With assistance from the Talbot County Arts Council, who helped with planning support as well as a mini-grant to help pay for the monthly entertainment, the open-air style market featured a variety of local artisans in a location typically not used for public events. The artists were able to show off their work, the neighborhood was featured or introduced to new visitors, and everyone was exposed to original art. “Art isn’t accessible to the everyday person, and you can either purchase something from a gallery, or you go to Target and buy whatever everybody else has. And so, I was one of those people that would love to have an original, but can’t afford $1,600.” That’s where Cultural Crossing can help. “If you wanted to see a sailboat, or a duck, or a landscape, it’s available in area galleries,” says Price. ‘But if you wanted to see graffiti, or something abstract and sculptural, you can’t easily find it.” Events such as this, Price believes, changes all of that and creates support for new art forms.
Yet even as this market was packing to leave, it was time to start planning for the next one. Fortunately, word got around, and on August 17, guests will have many new vendors to get to know and enjoy; double the number that was part of the inaugural, in fact. Support of local groups such as Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center and the Chesapeake Center (whose focus is to assist adults with disabilities), makes this event even more valuable. “It’s not just about different ethnicities in the area,” says Price, “it’s also about people with different abilities, as well.”
It doesn’t end there. Right now, the group has been approved through September and hope to add an October date. If they continue to be successful, the vision is to have it take place monthly April through October. They see the fair expanding to both sides of the trail, and feature much more folk art, jewelry, demonstrations, poetry, free things for kids to do, and live music. The immediate goal is to raise money to purchase a hand-washing station that will allow food vendors to be an integral part of the market.
Price sees a time when informal musical jam sessions, slam poetry and stand up performances will be the norm. “I want it to be entertaining, not just enriching,” she says. “I would like for people to feel like they learned something new or they saw something different. I want them to look forward to the next one because we want to continue to, not only evolve but also change so that it’s not the same every time.”
As for Price’s beloved East End, “I believe we’re going to experience a little bit of a renaissance.”
Culture Crossing is a free family event and will be open August 17 and September 14, 11:00am to 3:00pm.
For more information or to apply to become a vendor: www.eastonculturecrossing.com.
For up-to-date information on the artisans and vendors attending each event, follow @EastonCultureCrossing on Facebook and Instagram