Not to be confused with the Avalon Theatre in Chevy Chase, straddling northwest Washington, D.C. near the line into Montgomery County, the Avalon Theater in Easton celebrated its centennial in 2022, while Chevy Chase’s Avalon is observing its 100th anniversary by screening great films from each decade of its existence. If you’re curious, the next movie – to be determined (no, not its actual title) – is from the 1970s and will be screened on July 16.
Meanwhile, the Avalon in Easton one-ups its junior namesake by moving through its 101st anniversary with one of the most successful programs of its storied history. The Avalon Foundation’s 19th annual Plein Air Festival, regarded as the most prestigious and arguably largest such juried competition in the United States, opens July 14 with a kick-off party stroll-through downtown art galleries and other smart shops that dish out raffle tickets commensurate with your retail purchases while you enjoy pop-up street concerts. Following the raffle drawing and prizes – you must stick around to win – a live, interactive street performance of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” breaks out in front of the Tidewater Inn just as dark settles in and the “Nocturne Paint Out” commences with amateurs invited to set up easels next to festival competition artists as, together, they paint the town.
But that’s just the start. July 15 is your opportunity to see paintings evolve as you watch at the “Meet the Artists Party,” where most, if not all, of the artists in competition gather at this year’s historic venue situated at the confluence of the Gross and Lloyd creeks and the Wye River. Gross Coate Farm and its namesake Georgian plantation mansion were patented to William Gross in 1658 and became the ancestral home of the Tilghman family for 250 years. Unobstructed waterfront views in three directions stretch out to Wye Island straight ahead and Bennett’s Point in the distance, challenging talented artists to match its beauty. Guests can wander this magnificent estate and watch as painters create their interpretation of the vantage points they’ve selected. Admission is by charitable-giving membership in Friends of Plein Air Easton. Most people are there to buy, so don’t wait until the oil or watercolor dries. If it looks promising to your eye, make an offer before the painting is done, or you may lose it to a rival Plein Air friend.
Competition, not so much among the artists as the buyers, also applies to the Collectors’ Preview Party on July 21, during which your admission ticket allows you two hours or less to buy a potential masterpiece before everyone else is admitted free. (The cost of your ticket can be applied to your purchase.) Recent preview parties resulted in an average painting sold every 45 seconds. Even after the preview ends, the fresh smell of oil and other painterly applications lure art lovers for hours as signs warn them not to touch lest they smear the artist’s imagery.
While artists come from all over the U.S. and beyond to compete and sell their paintings at Plein Air Easton, Jill Basham of Trappe has been a fixture in the festival, appearing every year since 2012, winning a third-place ribbon. Basham also won the Best Painting by a Maryland Artist prize in 2015 and Best in Show in the limited 2020 pandemic edition.
Avalon Foundation’s Plein Air Easton is a one-of-kind-festival where you can experience art as a live performance event in town and all around Talbot County.
But if it’s a classic film centennial you’re looking for, Avalon in D.C. has just the ticket. Full disclosure, I only discovered this by googling Avalon centennial and coming up with that other one. Personally, I’m sticking to Easton’s Avalon’s centennial plus 1.
July is summertime anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere, and sometimes you need relief from the heat. Besides its air-conditioned galleries, Dorchester Center for the Arts in downtown Cambridge offers a visual escape to another of the four seasons with its photography exhibit “Yellowstone in Winter,” July 1-29. In February 2022, six skilled amateur photographers – three Ph.D. nutritionists, a human services administrator, a financial planner, and a bagpiper – embarked on a 10-day project to share their digital views of Yellowstone National Park, hoping to capture its natural wonder and majesty.
The photographers in the show are native New Yorker Janet Kerr, a retired researcher at the National Institute of Health; Bill McDonnell, who won several photo competitions in Fairfax County, Virginia, and more recently as a member of the Dorchester arts center; Mark Nelson, who took up photography in sixth grade after winning a camera as a prize for selling magazine subscriptions; Joe Soares, a retired University of Maryland, College Park, professor, who says climate change has driven him to “use photography to document the delicate nature of our woods and wetlands”; Randy Welch, who as a young commercial fisherman in Alaska, photographed wildlife ranging from humpback whales to wolves and eagles, and Wayne Zussman, who says he believes “a photograph should always tell a story.”
A Saturday, July 8 reception with the artists starts at 5 p.m.
You can enjoy Independence Day fireworks all over Delmarva, but for a truly Capital Fourth, think about traveling to the Nation’s Capital. However, if you’re sticking closer to home, fireworks get an early weekend start over St. Michaels Harbor on Saturday, July 1, at dusk. Go to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum campus for unparalleled viewing. (Admission to CBMM is free after 5 p.m. that day.) Celebratory bombs burst over Chestertown on Tuesday, July 4, along either the Kent or Queen Anne’s county sides of the Chester River. The best viewing is aboard the River Packet that sails out about 7:30 p.m. or at Town Dock at the foot of High Street. In Cambridge, fireworks shoot into the dark skies over the Choptank River on the Fourth, with the best views at Great Marsh and Long Wharf parks on the Dorchester side. But you can also take in the show on the Talbot side of the Choptank.
For a D.C. Fourth, consider staying overnight Monday through Wednesday morning. The celebration starts early with the Independence Day Parade along Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th streets. A fife and drum corps leads the way for military servicemen and women, keeping step to marching bands ahead of colorful patriotic floats, all starting at 11:45 a.m.
From there, it’s an easy walk to the National Archives, where you can see the original Declaration of Independence and other historic artifacts. On the Mall nearby, take in any free Smithsonian Museums sites, the National Gallery of Art, or the memorials and monuments – from Lincoln to Washington to World War II. But, be warned, it’s a longer walk than it looks to the Capitol. After squeezing in a late lunch/early dinner break, you may still have energy for the spectacular fireworks show over the Mall starting at around 9 p.m. While free tickets for the concert beforehand on the West Lawn of the Capitol aren’t easy to come by, try asking your congressional representative. The best bet may be to record it back home and take in the mix of Americana genres, classical music, and patriotic salutes upon your return.
If you’re staying an extra day, complete your three-day Fourth holiday with a half-hour drive to Mount Vernon to see how George, the Founding Father himself, lived back in the day of the nation’s birth as you listen to Revolutionary War-era music. Having seen the river view from his home, I’m sure that Washington–said never to have lied (I don’t believe that either) –once threw a silver dollar across the mile-wide Potomac. Not even a Cy Young arm is that mighty.
While baseball may not seem a subject for an arts column, it certainly qualifies as Americana. There’s a fashion aspect to this mention of the Baltimore Orioles, now the toast of the town. Make a fashion statement by attending the Friday, June 30, game against the Minnesota Twins while fitting yourself with the Orioles Floppy Hat giveaway. (Gametime 7:05 at Camden Yards.) Or take in two games and further accessorize with a Birdland Hawaiian Shirt at the 4:05 game with the Twins on July 1. There are no free threads for Sunday’s contest, but the 12:05 start allows kids or grandkids to run the major league bases after the O’s have defeated the Twins.
For a literary link to hometown baseball, Oriole Park is not far from the Edgar Allan Poe House & Museum, where on the first Saturday of the month – in this case, July 1 – you can book a bus for a guided exploration of circumstances surrounding Poe’s life and death in Baltimore. The 90-minute macabre tour includes a visit to BOTH of his graves – was he buried twice?! – each one close to where he was found and later passed away. Of sport-worthy note, Poe’s connection to Baltimore inspired the former Cleveland Browns football franchise, which relocated to Charm City in 1996, to be renamed the Ravens. And may it remain so, quoth the Raven, evermore.
BTW: The O’s challenge the Yankees in the Bronx over July 4 weekend.
Steve Parks is a retired New York arts writer and editor now living in Easton.