CFF Preview: Tom Horton and the Rising Sea Levels of Dorchester County


The Chesapeake Film Festival has gone out of their way this year to emphasize the important theme of conservation, and has consequently assembled a first rate collection of the most current documentaries on climate change, sea level rising, and other global warming issues to screen in the last weekend in October in Talbot County.

Ranging from Leonardo DiCaprio to short films on forestry and the fishing, the festival’s curatorial hand has carefully vetted out the the very best in international filmmaking, but it is suspected that the film that will have the most impact locally is case study of rising sea levels in Dorchester County.

The local dream team of filmmaker Sandy Cannon-Brown, photographer David Harp, and environmental author Tom Horton, who were responsible two years ago for the popular Beautiful Swimmers Revisited, a documentary inspired by William W. Warner’s classic book on of the Chesapeake Bay, have now reunited to tell the sobering tale of the disappearing landscape of Dorchester and the possible for the thirteen other Counties.

The Spy caught up with High Tide in Dorchester writer and narrator Tom Horton a week ago at Bullitt House to talk about the film and its mission to send an important warning to the entire Chesapeake Bay region.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Film Festival please go here

Chestertown Futures: What If Something Amazing Happened on Morgnec Road?


While the Town of Chestertown and Washington College have been rightly focused on the future of the Chester River waterfront, which includes plans to enhance the downtown experience, add more residents, and improve its retail sector, there is another part of town that might provide another excellent opportunity for improvement; the use of the land along Morgnec Road, between Upper High Street and Washington Avenue.

Morgnec Road may not instinctively be seen as another critical part of Chestertown’s long-range plans, but it should be. The axis that runs approximately one mile is currently shared by the College and a few commercial buildings, is not only an ideal gateway into town, particularly with its rail-to-trail access, but shows excellent promise for affordable living within a sustainable, mixed-use community.

This might sound ambitious, particularly given the number of private parties that have interests along Morgnec, but that hasn’t stopped other communities from forming creative alliances to maximize land use and preserve local quality of life.

One reason we know comes with our familiarity with the consulting work of PLACE, a Minneapolis-based firm that has been providing assistance to the Easton Economic Development Corporation and their long-term plans (think twenty years or more) to create an integrated strategy to unite Easton’s downtown along Port Street with its waterfront on the Tred Avon River.

PLACE is a nonprofit project that assists towns like Easton to design and build vibrant places for people to live and work. Their projects across the United States have created extraordinarily successful models for this across the income spectrum, using efficient environmental design, and the empowerment of the community to participate in every aspect of the development process.

Through these experiences, the PLACE team has developed some significant opinions about the future of community development not only about the make up those projects but the financing of them.  They’ve worked with Native American tribes and colleges, art centers and community gardeners, all in search with models that allow residents to live and work in the same place.

The Spy sat down with PLACE co-founders Chris Velasco and Elizabeth Bowling to talk about what they’ve learned about big projects in small communities. Both Chris and Elizabeth share their collective experience about what works and how new strategies are being deployed to create a more holistic structure for housing and employment.

While their comments can only be seen as broad and generalized, with no significant knowledge of Chestertown, we felt our readers would appreciate the optimism they bring to the concept of 21st Century living even in small towns like ours.

This video is approximately nine minutes in length. For more information about PLACE  and their projects please go here



Mid-Shore Arts: Tred Avon Players Takes on the Rocky Horror Picture Show


To provide some historical context for the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which the Tred Avon Players will be offering this October, the play is almost twice as old as Talley Wilford, the production’s director. The lead, Mike Sousa, who plays Dr. Frank-N-Furter, was born twelve years after the original started in London in 1973. You get the idea.

While one still thinks of Rocky Horror as a very contemporary piece of work, the fact is that it’s been around for almost five decades. That’s both the charm and the challenge when the classic is brought back to the stage year after year.

The exceptional charm comes with a story that has been told thousands of times on screen and in the theatre, and yet not only seems as fresh and humorously shocking as when it debuted but continues to attract new generations to sing along with the mad scientist and his servants.

The challenge comes to any director or actor who wants to take the ionic material and make it their own, and that is what Talley and Mike talk to the Spy about in our latest interview with the Tred Avon Players.

Talley and Mike also talk about how they first encountered Rocky Horror and the indelible imprint it had on their love of theatre and musical comedy.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. 

Performances for the  Rocky Horror Picture Show are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Thurs., Fri. & Sat., Oct. 19, 20 & 21, & 2 p.m. Sun., Oct. 22; and 7:30 p.m. Thurs., Fri. & Sat., Oct 26, 27 & 28, and 2 p.m. Sun., Oct. 29.  And A special MIDNIGHT SHOW on Friday Night Oct. 27 Call 410-226-0061 or visit the Tred Avon Players website for more information and ticketing. 


Mid-Shore Gardens: The Chesapeake Bay Herb Society’s Remedy at Pickering


“Gardeners, I think, dream bigger than emperors.”
— Mary Cantwell  New York Times journalist

Mary Cantwell might have been thinking of herb gardeners when she talked about dreaming “bigger,” and could well include members of the Chesapeake Bay Herb Society when looking at the results of their thirteen years of hard work at the Pickering Creek Audubon Center.

Formed in 2002 by a small group of enthusiastic herb gardeners who placed a small ad in the Star-Democrat asking for volunteers, the Chesapeake Bay Herb Society’s membership now stands at fifty, with once a month gatherings to discuss the region’s remarkable herbs and their care.

But, as our Spy interview with some of the Herb Society’s founders (Denis Gasper, Spencer Garrett, and Dana McGrath) indicate,  it has always been their beloved herb garden at Pickering that has been the central focus of the organization’s mission and labor of love.

Drawn by the culinary or medicinal purposes that herbs can be used for, the Society has collected an extremely robust variety for the general public to observe and also take home with them. It also welcomes new volunteers to help with the weekly management of the site.

The benefits of both activities can be keenly felt by those that participate, but perhaps the greatest attribute for the CBHS’s garden is that of being a sort of remedy; a place to see, smell and taste some of the world’s wonders in a sanctuary setting that allows all those that enter a chance to “dream bigger.”

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Bay Herb Society please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: Philip McMartin’s Remarkable Woodcuts at Trippe-Hilderbrandt


There is very little doubt that Philip McMartin (1930-2009) was a remarkable man. The deceased artist, photographer, and writer, whose stunning woodcuts now on display at theTrippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery in Easton, was very much the product of a different time in our country.

Self-educated, McMartin started his career as a small town reporter in Vermont right after high school, which would lead to being the new anchor of the state’s largest television station in Burlington for a good part of the 1960s.  And, along with his wife, artist Helen Lakis, and their four children, McMartin moved to Washington, DC to become a filmmaker for many years with the National Rural
Electric Cooperative Association.

But, like many interesting men, the story does not end there.

As Philip McMartin continued to branch out with is photography, particularly focused on the Chesapeake Bay and working watermen, he found himself constantly frustrated that he could fully capture the essence of these powerful scenes through the use of a camera. And with no artistic training at all, he spontaneously shifted into making woodcut plates on the family dining room table for the next five years.

In all, he completed twenty blocks during that period.  In his spare time, this very independent and solitary man  would periodically sell some of them at small galleries in Annapolis, but in the end, storied his artwork away permanently, feeling he had completed his mission, and moved on hand build a 38 foot catamaran, and never returned to the art of woodcuts.

Fast forward some fifty years, well after Philip’s passing, and his son, Jim, along with Talbot County friend Kevin Garber, were clearing out space in Jim’s workshop in Wittman and rediscovered the woodcuts. It didn’t take them long to realize how remarkable the art was and began reproducing the work.  And the results of that labor, with Kevin making the prints and Jim making the frames, was a successful exhibitions at the Academy Art Museum and Salisbury University, and more recently, on the walls at Nanny Trippe’s popular gallery in downtown Easton.

A few weekends ago, the Spy sat down with Jim McMartin to talk about his father, his love of the Chesapeake, and his lifelong admiration for those making a living with their hands and knowledge of the sea.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the McMartin woodcuts, please go to Trippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery’s website here

Mid-Shore Commerce: Commentator Craig Fuller Comments on Easton Airport


When people ask Talbot County’s Craig Fuller about his opinions these days, it is more likely to be of a political nature.

There’s a good reason for that. Craig was one of the early members of the Reagan team that moved into the White House after the 1980 election. From there, he became the chief of staff for Vice President George H.W. Bush, and later chaired Bush’s transition team after the 1988 vote.

And a lot of people are asking Craig Fuller’s opinion these days. He can regularly be found on cable news as a commentator or writing Op-Ed articles for leading journals.

One can count the Spy as another media outlet also seeking out Craig’s thoughts, but with an entirely different subject of mind, namely small airports.

Beyond the significant political experiences the Fuller had in his early years in Washington, he left public service to become the CEO of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association. During that time, his familiarity with rural and small regional airports was not only part of his job, but he was also able to critically evaluate the good and the bad ones of the more than 5,000 small airports in the country.

As the Mid-Shore approaches the annual Airport Day at the Easton Regional Airport on September 30th, the Spy saw this as a perfect opportunity to talk to Craig about the importance of small airports and his thoughts on ESN.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Airport Day at the Easton Airport please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: Bennett Bean on Being Careful


While his first major piece of art sold to the Whitney Museum in 1967, it could be said that Bennett Bean’s art career actually started in 1981.

That was the year Bennett permanently ended teaching at Wagner College in New York and left the city for the New Jersey countryside and focus exclusively on his artwork.

That was a good bet on his part. Since that moment in time, he now has his artwork in the permanent collection of such esteemed museums as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in Southern California.

But as Bennett explains in his interview with the Spy at the Academy Art Museum from last week, it was due to this newly found freedom, which he calls a “romantic involvement,” that has produced the extraordinary pottery and colors now on display in a major exhibition or his work entitled Be Careful What You Fall in Love With this fall at the AAM.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum and “Bennett Bean: Be Careful What You Fall in Love With” please go here.

CFF Preview: Kurt Kolaja’s Wild Ponies of Chincoteague


As with the case with most documentarians, who tend to need very long production times to make their films, the Spy had not heard from Kurt Kolaja for a few years. The last time was when we interviewed Kurt was in connection with the hugely successful and charming documentary on the Kent County Marching Band in 2011.

Audiences found that film to be extraordinary in sharing the humor and the fun that goes hand in hand with local community marching bands, but also the very real, and sometimes complex, personalities of the band members themselves. Six years later, Kurt has used those same skills to capture another part of Eastern Shore culture with his new film entitled the Wild Ponies of Chincoteague. While the theme of this new production is certainly putting a well-deserved spotlight on the extraordinary habitat of these wild horses, it also drills down into the community itself and those unique individuals that play a critical role in a historical legacy that is found on the lower Eastern shore.

The Spy caught up with Kurt at the Bullitt House in Easton last week to talk about the film which will be premiering at the Chesapeake film Festival in late October.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Film Festival please go here 

An Eastern Shore Land Conservancy Toast to Sandy Hoon


In a few weeks, the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy will be having their annual gala in Kent County to honor one of their organization’s founders, Alexander “Sandy” Hoon, who passed away a few months ago. The Spy was delighted to hear the news of the gala.

While Sandy might have been best known in his senior years as being the father of the well-known attorney in town, Philip Hoon, the legacy of Sandy Hoon’s contributions to Chestertown, Kent County, and a good bit of the Mid-Shore are not only noteworthy but truly worthy to celebrate.

While no one could never accuse Sandy of shyness, like many of his generation, it was not in his core nature to take a bow. Like many of a certain age, he never sought credit for when he and other dedicated Mid-Shore land conservationists, like former Governor Harry Hughes and Centreville attorney Howard Wood, helped formed the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy in 1990.

But the results of that fledgling organization, twenty-seven years later, show how remarkable that achievement has been. Since those early days, literally thousands of acres of some of the Eastern Shore’s most extraordinary landscapes have been permanently protected in all five counties of the Mid-Shore.  Just as importantly, the ESLC has taken on a leadership role in keeping small towns in the region vibrant with such stunning successes like the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton or the transformational plans for the Cannery Building in Cambridge.

The Spy sat down with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy’s first and only executive director, Rob Etgen, and Sandy’s son Phil to reminisce  about Sandy and his impact on land conservation.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about the ESLC gala please go here