Call for 2015 “Paint the Town” Plein Air Artists


Plein air artists are invited to participate in Chestertown RiverArts Sixth Annual “Paint the Town” event to be held Thursday, April 23 through Sunday, April 26 in Chestertown, MD. Registration is limited to the first 50 entrants. We are almost full so please complete your registration forms as soon as possible.

Dennis Young is known for his plein air work. Here he captures Chestertown.

Dennis Young is known for his plein air work. Here he captures Chestertown.

This fun-filled four-day event is held on Maryland’s Eastern Shore and it will be packed with beautiful venues, good food, and lots of camaraderie. Chestertown and its surrounding areas offer a wide range of subjects, including historic streetscapes, water views, gardens, rural farms, and a colorful outdoor Farmers Market. (Some covered venues will be identified in case of inclement weather.)

Local restauranteurs also will host the popular “Taste of the Town” in Fountain Park on Sunday.

RiverArts’ non-juried event is open to plein air artists painting in all media and includes dinner for all artists Friday evening, “Wet Paint” exhibition and sale on Saturday evening and a two-hour “Quick Draw” paint out on Sunday morning. Prizes will be awarded at both exhibits. This year, artists will also be invited to submit ‘minis’ (no more than 5″ x 7″) for a silent auction.

To learn more about our plein air event and read the complete call for artists with registration form, please visit our website, Registration is considered complete when RiverArts is in receipt of both entry form and payment. You can register and pay online, or mail the entry form and payment to Chestertown RiverArts, 315 High Street, Suite 106, Chestertown, MD 21620. Check should be made payable to “RiverArts.”

Dixie Power Trio Headlines Annual Mardi Gras Dance Party


Attention! Revelers of all ages wanted to attend the annual Mardi Gras Community Dance Party at The Garfield Center for the Arts on Saturday, February 7. The perennially popular Dixie Power Trio (plus one) will entertain beginning at 8 pm; the lobby doors will open at 7 pm.

Costumes are not mandatory, but highly encouraged. Be prepared for an evening of dancing to authentic sounding New Orleans jazz, zydeco, Cajun, street parade, and Louisiana-style funk. Intermission will feature King Cake and a special performance by Philip Dutton & the Alligators. A cash bar will include Mardi Gras specials. Beads and masks will be available for those who need to accessorize.

Reservations Recommended! General Admission is $20; a $25 Backpack ticket ensures that $5 will be donated to the local Backpack program. Student tickets are $10 with ID. For more information, visit, email or  call 410-810-2060. The Garfield Center for the Arts at the Prince Theatre is located at 210 High Street, Chestertown, MD.


SpyCam Moment: For the Love of Opera with Janet Pheffer


Perhaps like bird-watching, or any other passion that may come later in life for some, for Janet Pfeffer, the head volunteer usher for the Avalon’s “Live at the Met” opera simulcast broadcast, her love of opera can late in life. In fact, it only arrived last year.

While she has made her living in education, and plays numerous volunteer leader roles with some of the Mid-Shore’s leading music and singing performing groups, Janet’s discovery of opera was a total surprise to her. In her interview with the Spy, she talks about how it happened that this age-old musical tradition finally started to have special meaning for her.

The next performance will be a love performance of Offenbach’s famed Les Contes d’Hoffman on January 31st at 1pm. Tickets can be purchased online here

We also wanted to share with our readers Janet’s lovely essay on her experience at the Avalon:

A Day at the Opera

Saturday, November 1, 2014 is dank and rainy, a good day to stay indoors and watch a murder. I put on a colorful jacket and scarf, pack an apple and some Halloween leftovers, and show up at the Avalon Theatre at 12:15 pm to usher at The Met: Live in HD performance of the opera Carmen.

We are expecting a good crowd, to see what the Met describes as a “mesmerizing production of Bizet’s steamy melodrama … [with an] irresistible score.”

Suzy Moore, Theater Manager, assigns me the orchestra entrance and I get right to work, preventing bloodshed between two pairs of patrons eager to be first in line when the doors open at 12:30 pm.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 12.09.04 PMMy job as usher is to welcome people, rip ticket stubs, hand out the synopsis of the opera, and check that general admission folks know to avoid sitting in the sections reserved for members of the Avalon Producers’ Club or the Metropolitan Opera Guild. As the audience settles in, I close one of the entrance doors to conserve heat. The Avalon is an historic structure with an old heating and cooling system; not unlike the majority of the audience members. Just after 1:00 pm I settle into my special seat right next to the doors. The locking mechanism on the doors is taped to eliminate clicks, but I remain poised to open the door for entering or exiting patrons and then ease it gently back into its closed position.

I know that I’ll be writing a blog about my Carmen experience, and I decide to NOT take notes on the narrative – I will use the synopsis to give some plot highlights – instead, I will look for half-a-dozen aspects of Carmen that excite me. Here we go.

The overture. Carmen begins with a rousing overture. The Met cameras have been showing us the New York audience settling in; they now provide panoramas, group shots, and close-ups of the conductor and orchestra members. A female oboist has several peak moments. Toward the end, the jagged crack in the Met’s huge curtain opens just enough to show a sinuous couple framed in blood-red light doing an acrobatic and erotic dance. Already things are getting steamy.

The appearance of Carmen. When the curtain rises we see soldiers in Seville in drab green uniforms hanging around a gray tobacco factory. The women who climb up out of the factory wear pale tan smocks over white dresses – all except the gypsy Carmen with her waist-long black hair and lacy black dress. Throughout the opera Carmen wears bold colors and uses her layers of clothing to flaunt and seduce. Though she wears long skirts, we see a lot of leg, a lot of thigh. (Plot highlights, Act 1: Carmen throws a red flower at Don José, one of the soldiers, who initially pays no attention. Later, he is supposed to guard Carmen after she’s arrested for fighting with another girl in the factory, and she entices him with suggestions of a rendezvous. Don José lets her escape.)

Spanish dancing. The second act takes place at a tavern where a good amount of spirited flamenco-style dancing takes place. The Met uses professional dancers, and the opera singers are coached to look good in the ensemble. (Plot highlights, Act 2: Carmen rejects the overtures of a bullfighter and continues to tease Don José, who’s spent two months in prison for letting her escape and has now come looking for her. José is jealous and enraged, ends up fighting with his superior officer, and has no choice but to join Carmen and her smuggler friends.)

Intermission and behind-the-scenes. Intermissions last more than 30 minutes; there’s time to stretch, eat, visit with friends, even stroll downtown Easton. Beginning and closing each intermission are special features. A different glamorous opera diva hosts each performance. She conducts interviews with some of the principals – one or two of the major performers, maybe the conductor or the Met manager, sometimes someone with a special role: a stagehand, the animal trainer, the chorus director. Joyce DiDonato, mezzo soprano from Kansas, is our Carmen guide. She is fresh from singing the National Anthem at the last game of the World Series. I admire her short blonde curls, short red dress, and super-wide smile. While I fetch my beverage from the concession on the second floor, she chats with Carmen, played by Anita Rachvelishvili, and then the stage manager.

Joyce DiDonato singing the National Anthem at the last game of the World Series

Fight scenes. The fighting between Carmen and the cigarette girl in Act 1, José and his superior in Act 2, José and the bullfighter in Act 3, and the fight to the death between José and Carmen in Act 4 are choreographed to perfection; at times I close my eyes to not feel their pain. (Plot, Act 3: Set in the smugglers’ mountain hideaway, it’s clear that Carmen’s love for José is fading; she is attracted to the bullfighter. José leaves to be with his dying mother, after being sought out by a peasant girl from his village, whom we met in the first act when she came to deliver to José a letter from Mom. Such a sweet girl, José planned to marry her before his seduction by Carmen.)

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 12.10.49 PM

The choristers. The Metropolitan Opera is renowned for the quality of its choruses. In the October 2014 production of Macbeth the three witches were represented by a chorus of women and girls, each a distinct character with her own costume and set of mannerisms – each singing, acting, and moving in concert with the others. My favorite choruses in Carmen are the Act 1 women’s chorus play-smoking cigarettes and cooling off from factory work, and the children’s chorus running excitedly back and forth waiting for the bullfight in Act 4. (Plot highlights, Act 4: Outside the bullfight arena, Carmen is with her new man and is not afraid to confront José, who begs her to start a new life with him. She calmly tells him that she was born free and will die free. José is a sore loser; she finally loses her temper, throws his ring at his feet, and he stabs her to death.)

Bravo! Brava! We cheer as the singers take their bows.

Live performances are great; but so much is special about watching Metropolitan Opera performances on the big screen at the Avalon, which I have been doing since October, 2010.

The flow of close-ups, group shots, panoramas throughout the performance helps focus on the story; on the stellar acting and singing; on the elegant or evocative sets and costumes; on the skill of the dancers, swordfighters, acrobats, lovers or seducers; on the engrossing diversity of the chorus members, each adult and child with his or her own characteristics. The behind-the-scenes stagecraft, interviews and commentary before and between acts provide insights and that sense of being an insider.

The Avalon is such a comfortable place to watch The Met: Live in HD. It’s beautiful, not too small, not too big. The sound quality is great, the large screen is visible. Watching at the Avalon, It’s exciting to be part of a huge global audience, and at the same time to be a part of a family of several hundred. Many of us subscribe for half or all of the performances; we have our favorite sections of the theater, often our favorite seats, hence the importance of entering the theater early.

The Avalon is a friendly venue: we are allowed to picnic in the theater. We can purchase soft, hot, or alcoholic drinks and snacks in the Stoltz Listening Room on the second floor. Some of us bring brown bag lunches or snacks; some of us place an order in the lobby with the chef from Bannings, and pick up a sandwich or salad at the first intermission.

Make Musical Instruments with Your Kids January 31


Chestertown RiverArts will welcome kids from ages six to twelve to our “Musical Instruments You Can Make” workshop on Saturday, January 31. Participants will make and decorate instruments and have a chance to play them. The workshop will be from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at KidSPOT, at 315 High Street, suite104. The cost of the class is $20 per child. Family discounts are available by calling RiverArts at 410-778-6300. Pre-registration is recommended but drop-ins are welcome if space is available.

KidSPOT is a hands-on creative learning center for children ages 2-12. We are open every Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon with a variety of stimulating activities, free of charge to kids accompanied by their parents or other responsible adult. KidSPOT’s theme for January is Pop Art.

Join us this Saturday morning for print-making, drawing and painting activities inspired by Andy Warhol Keith Haring and others.

To register for this or any of our workshops or for more information about KidSPOT, visit our website at or call RiverArts at 410-778-6300.

Creator of ‘Girls with Slingshots’ on Art and Business of Web Comics

Danielle Corsetto

Danielle Corsetto

The creator of the online comic series Girls with Slingshots visits the Rose O’Neill Literary House at Washington College Tuesday, February 17, to talk about the art and business of web comics. Danielle Corsetto, who has entertained hundreds of thousands of readers online since 2004, will speak at 4:30 p.m. at the Lit House, 407 Washington Avenue.  The event is free and open to the public.

Danielle Corsetto’s love of cartoon strips was nurtured early on when her grandfather read “Garfield” and “Peanuts” to her.  She started writing her own strips at age 8. After graduating from Shepherd College with a BFA in photography and digital imaging, she started Girls with Slingshots as a black-and-white comic published twice a week. A decade later, the strip appears in color five times a week and is compiled in books published by TopatoCo.

Girls With Slingshots revolves around two twenty-something women, Hazel and Jamie, and their adventures with friends, including a cactus named McPedro. The web-comic series focuses on ideas of romance, career struggles, friendships, and sexuality. Corsetto says the style of Girls with Slingshots is “more realistic and less stereotypical. All the characters have these unusual relationships, both romantic and platonic … that are not what you would find in, say, a sitcom, but it’s written like a sitcom. I’m trying to normalize these things that are taboo.”

More than 100,000 people visit on a daily basis to read the latest installment. Corsetto has also written several books and original graphic novels (OGNs). Her fifth OGN for Adventure Time will be published this March.

This event was organized by Rose O’Neill Literary House 2014 summer interns Julie Armstrong ’15 and Ryan Manning ’17. Already fans of Corsetto’s webcomic, they were eager to bring her to campus to share her quick wit and humor.  For more information about this lecture and other Rose O’Neill Literary House events and programs, call (410) 778-7899 or email

RiverArts To Present Two Shows in February


Opening on First Friday, February 6, 5:00-8:00pm, and running through February 28 are two shows whose pieces intermix with each other in both the Main and Studio Galleries at RiverArts, 315 High Street, Suite 106. Co-curators Barbara Parker andd Ronn Akins have been overseeing the abstract show and Chuck Engstrom curated the Wood Workers Showcase. All worked together so that these pieces complement each other.

Abstract by Ronn Akins

Abstract by Ronn Akins

Without Reference – The Abstract Art Show includes both 2D and 3D pieces. Abstract art can be a painting or sculpture that does not depict a person, place or thing in the natural world. Therefore the subject of the work is based on what you see: color, shapes, brushstrokes, size, scale. Abstract art began in 1911 with such works as Picture with a Circle by the Russian artist, Wassily Kandinsky. Kandinsky believed that colors provoke emotions. Red was lively and confident. Green was peaceful with inner strength.

Blue was deep and supernatural. Yellow could be warm, exciting, or disturbing. White seemed silent but full of possibilities. Kandinsky also assigned instrument tones to go with each color. Red sounded like a trumpet. Green sounded like a middle-position violin. Light Blue sounded like a flute. Dark Blue sounded like a cello. Yellow sounded like a fanfare of trumpets. White sounded like the pause in a harmonious melody.

These analogies to sounds came from Kandinsky’s love of music especially that by the contemporary Viennese composer Arnold Schoenberg.

Sandy's Child #3 by Michael Scarborough

Sandy’s Child #3 by Michael Scarborough

The Wood Workers’ Showcase: A Judged Show includes many types of work including tables, lamps, bird carvings and turned wood objects. Many different types of wood will be on display. In addition to our local artists, there will be works by artisans from other areas of the Eastern Shore, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Maine and New York.

This show is a judged show. Modest monetary prizes will be awarded by David Fry from Washington, D.C. who is a long-time writer, critic, and wood turner. Many of his articles have appeared in the National Wood Turners Magazine. He has also judged several shows for the Chesapeake Wood Turners.

RiverArts regular hours are Tuesday-Friday, 11:00-4:00, First Friday, 11:00-8:00 and Saturday 10:00-4. Be sure to stop by to see these two wonderful shows.


Sing a Song of the Chesapeake with Tom McHugh


The Eastern Shore Writers Association has scheduled a Chesapeake Song program with renowned folk singer Tom McHugh at 11 a.m. Feb. 14 in Rock Hall.

Festivities start at the historic Mainstay Theater with a concert of Songs of the Chesapeake by McHugh, who will present a set of his classic waterman and boating tunes. The program will then move to the Bay Wolf Restaurant for lunch, where McHugh will MC a program of recorded and live regional songs. Guests are invited to bring guitars and banjos.

Tom_McHugh_Mainstay_pixA retired college professor, McHugh received a Ph.D. from Penn, then started his college teaching career at Washington College. He moved to Vassar College as chairman of The Department of Education and a member of the American Culture Program faculty. McHugh retired in the early nineties as a full professor and moved back to Rock Hall.

“When I retired early from Vassar I vowed to my students that I would take the things learned there and convert them for use in some other setting,” McHugh said. “Those things Vassar taught me were a love of community service, that every act is a teaching act, that the best learning takes place in settings that are artistic and creative, and that the arts are critical to any learning atmosphere.” So, in 1997, Tom founded The Mainstay as a community center for the arts.

Both events are open to the public – the concert is $6 at the door and lunch is $14. Please RSVP for the lunch at CDs of McHugh’s songs are available at the Mainstay.

A Different Kind of Gun Show at the Kohl in February

David Hess in his studio.

David Hess in his studio.

There’s a gun show coming to Kohl Gallery, but visitors should bring an open mind, not cash or checks.

In his new exhibition “Gun Show,” opening Thursday, February 5, artist David Hess, a sculptor and craftsman widely known for his large public installations, will premiere 60 of the 100 assault rifles he has assembled from scrapped household and industrial parts. In his Baltimore County studio, pieces of metal, wood, leather and plastic taken from cast-off appliances, machinery and other detritus became weapons. The artist hopes they will spark reflection and conversations about the role of guns and gun violence in American culture. “The most outspoken voice in the conversation, the NRA, is disproportionately a voice of white males,” he explains. “As a white man, living in rural Maryland, not belonging to or espousing the tenets of the NRA, my voice has been notably, and shamefully, absent.”

Last year, some 32,000 Americans died from gun violence, more than the number who died from traffic accidents, notes Hess, who closely follows the work of the Center for Gun Violence at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health. “I built this arsenal to provoke conversation, give voice to outrage and perhaps alter the course of the tragedy of gun violence,” he says of “Gun Show.” I want to provoke a new kind of dialogue and reflection that might motivate others, especially privileged white men, to raise their voices against gun violence in America. Most Americans abhor violence, particularly when it is directed at innocents, but we have come to accept gun violence as the cost of living in a country with almost as many guns as people.”gun2

Hess stresses that he is not anti-gun. “I own a shotgun and I used to hunt ducks and geese. People still hunt deer on the property around my house,” he says. “But I saw the shooting of the school children in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012 as another 9/11 moment for this country in terms of our culture and our relationship to guns, especially assault weapons. I felt I needed to respond to that and to the legislative failure to act in the aftermath.”

Hess began crafting his weapons in the spring of 2013, creating the shapes from his imagination and allowing each faux weapon to take shape on its own. “I don’t draw them first,” Hess explains. “I just start and see how the pieces work together. “ He machines parts as needed and fastens them together with bolts, mechanical fasteners and welding joints.

gun3For “Gun Show,” the pieces will be laid out on tarps on the floor. Visitors will be asked to remove their shoes before entering, then wend their way though set paths created between the tarps. “I want to put people in a different space, and create an experience,” says Hess. “I don’t want to celebrate these pieces. Nothing will be showcased on the wall like some prized family rifle over a mantel.”

Alex Castro, interim-director of Kohl Gallery, points out that “this exhibition does what a College teaching gallery does best: it highlights significant art while encouraging dialogue on issues that are important to our lives.”

A graduate of Dartmouth College, David Hess majored in Visual Studies and studied with realist wood sculptor Fumio Yoshimura, whose humor and precision made a strong impression on him. His large-scale work often explores elements poised precariously on the verge of movement and challenging gravity and physics. Among his best-known works is “Bird’s Nest,” an award-winning piece of twisted stainless steel that clings to the brick façade of the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore and functions as a balcony. His work is also housed in numerous private and public collections, including Thurgood Marshall Airport and Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Subject to a public meeting and official approval of the Town Council, one of Hess’s public art installations also will grace Chestertown’s Wilmer Park in the not-too-distant future. As announced January 20, a panel of judges has chosen Hess’s proposal for a playscape titled “Broad Reach” to be installed in the park, which fronts the Chester River. His design—two large-scale stainless steel pieces inspired by a full sail and a barrel wave and set against two grassy berms—was among a dozen ideas submitted by artists from across the country. The playscape, defined as “public art activated by play,” is one component of a broad public-art master plan for Chestertown’s riverfront, an initiative funded by the National Endowment for the Arts through its “Our Town” grants.

Hess will be on hand at the opening of “Gun Show” on Thursday, February 5, and later will take part in a panel discussion (date and time to be determined) on the topic of gun violence and gun rights. For the panel, he will be joined by Firmin DeBrabander, a professor of philosophy and ethics at Maryland Institute College of Art and author of Do Guns Make Us Free, to be published this May by Yale University Press.

The Kohl Gallery show is the first stop on a “Gun Show” tour that also will visit UMBC (University of Maryland Baltimore County), American University, and other higher-ed venues. The Gallery, which is located on the first floor of the Gibson Center for the Arts on the Washington College campus, is open Wednesday through Sunday, 1 to 6 p.m. “Gun Show” will be on exhibit through March 6, 2015.

For more information on artist David Hess visit

Editor’s Note: David Hess’s design “Broad Reach,” a stainless steel play-interactive sculpture, was chosen as Chestertown’s first public arts project. Currently it is proposed for the entrance area of Wilmer Park.

Emmanuel Bringing Organist Maxine Thevenot to Chestertown


The Emmanuel Church will be presenting another popular organ concert on February 13 at 7:30 PM featuring the renowned organist Maxine Thevenot and Edmund Connolly, baritone soloist

Ms. Thevenot is considered one of America’s leading organists and choral directors. She is on the faculty of the University of New Mexico, holds the position of organist and choir director of Albuquerque’s Cathedral of St. John. She and her husband Edmund Connolly often perform recitals together around this country and Europe. Born and raised in Canada, she has degrees from the Manhattan School of Music. She has recorded extensively with RAVEN CD and has received several awards for outstanding performances.

Returning to Emmanuel for the 5th time, she will present an in-depth program ranging from the early music and classical composers like Cabezon and Bach to modern composers including Ralph Vaughn Williams. Certain pieces will include solos by Edmond Connolly.

Tickets are $20 ($5 for students) and can be purchased at the door. Emmanuel Church, 101 N. Cross St. Chestertown 410-778-3477