Mid-Shore Arts: Ben Simons Takes the Helm at the Academy Art Museum

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For Ben Simons, the road to the Eastern Shore and his appointment as the new director of the Academy Art Museum is almost a lesson in geography. Raised by diplomats who served in a variety of iron curtain countries in the 1980s, including places like Romania, Russia, and Poland, it was through this somewhat exotic childhood that Ben first connected with museums and the unique role those institutions play in culture. But it would turn out to be the island of Nantucket where Simons first embraced the world of museum management as a career.

For close to fifteen years, Ben and his wife, the artist Alison Cooley, made that remote community off the shores of Massachusetts their home which allowed them both to pursue their real interests. While Alison focused on her art, Ben became the chief curator and senior management member of Nantucket Historical Association’s highly regarded Whaling Museum. And it was at this institution that he began to connect the dots between literature, history, art, and education.

In the Spy’s first interview with Ben, he talks about his background, his passion for art, and some of the new initiatives he’s already started at the Academy, including doubling down on its educational programs, the redesign of the AAM website, reinstituting the very popular Craft Show this fall, and finally preparing for the Museum’s 60th birthday in 2018. Not bad for four months on the job.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about the Academy Art Museum please go here

Mid-Shore Culture: The Life and Times of Stymie with Lehr Jackson

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While Mid-Shore resident Lehr Jackson has made himself a remarkable career in urban development, particularly with his unique partnership with urban planner James Rouse in the 1970s and 1980s, those who know him best realize that his greatest gift might be that of storyteller.

From chronicling his Vietnam years, to his pioneering work with Rouse on Faneuil Hall in Boston, or, most recently, his push to tell the tale of Stymie, a remarkable race horse of the 1940s, Lehr seems to have an uncanny ability to sniff out some really remarkable American stories.

In this case, it is the remarkable journey of a racehorse that was all but given up on in the early 1940s. Stymie, groomed for success on King Ranch in Texas, failed to show promise after his first two years of racing and was purchased by the now legendary Maryland horse trainer Hirsch Jacobs, for $1,500 and by the time he retired from the horse track at the end of the 19540s, his career winnings came close to $1 million, an unprecedented amount of money for the time.

In Lehr’s third interview with the Spy, he talks about Jacobs, Stymie, and the amazingly counter-intuitive way in which this amazing Maryland horse was trained to finish 131 lifetime starts with Stymie winning in 35 races, placed in 33, and showed in 28.

This video is approximately five minutes in length

Mid-Shore Arts: Carla Massoni’s “Little Demons” in Chestertown

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Carla Massoni is the first to credit her friend and artist Kenneth Schiano for the title of a new art show at Massoni’s gallery on High Street in Chestertown starting this month called “Little Demons.” It was Ken’s way of describing those nagging and relentless self-reminders coming from within that he needs to push harder with his art.  

And while that might sound like rather negative, Schiano was using the term with its original Greek meaning in mind, which is closer to divine inspiration or a form of happiness rather than a fallen angel. In Ken’s world, his demons motivate him to produce more challenging art. 

Carla saw that these demons could be seen with a number of artists she has worked with at certain points in their careers, and she therefore called upon Schiano and gallery artists Karen Hubacher, Claire McArdle, Zemma Mastin White, Leigh Wen, Katherine K. Allen, Anne Leighton Massoni and Deborah Weiss to be part of this winter show.  She also recruited other artists she has admired to participate like the multi-talented Joe Karlik,  Raphael Sassi and Sara Bakken.

The Spy spoke to Carla at her gallery a few days ago to get a better sense how constructive “Little Demons” in the process of creating art.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about “Little Demons” please go here

 

Mid-Shore Public Affairs: Kent Center’s Board President Randy Cooper Looks Forward

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Randy Cooper is perhaps best known for the highly successful renovation of the Radcliffe Mill just north of town for the new home of Radcliffe Corporate Services, which he founded in 1987, but it’s clear from his recent interview the Spy that he’s not yet done with building things.

After a long career in accounting, including top positions with Arthur Andersen & Company, Bank of America, and the Mellon Bank, and the success of Radcliffe, Randy’s new challenge comes with his appointment as president of the board of Kent Center, Inc, Kent County’s highly respected organization serving the region’s needs to help and support adults with developmental disabilities.

In his Spy interview, Randy talks about the extraordinary contributions Kent Center has made to help close to seventy clients and their families with a staff of over one hundred staff, as well as increasing the number of those living independently. He also talks about the unique challenge that parents have to ensure their adult children are taken care of after they pass away.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Kent Center, please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: WC’s Rose O’Neill Literary House with Director James Allen Hall

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Over the last two decades, Washington College has invested heavily into three major institutions on their campus. The first two of these so-called “Centers for Excellence,” are the highly respected C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the equally impressive Center for Environment & Society. Both have built themselves into exceptionally vital parts of campus life as well as the entire Mid-Shore..

The third, the Rose O’Neill Literary House, is perhaps the least known of the triplets, but certainly is the oldest with over forty years of student programs, literary publications and a long list of some of the best known names in the world of arts and letter making campus visits, including the likes of Toni Morrison, Allen Ginsberg and poet Billy Collins.

And while the “Lit House” program does not equal its WC peers in endowment support and operating budgets, it makes up for it with inspired leadership. Starting with the program’s founder Bob Day in 1970 and now under the stewardship of professor and poet James Allen Hall, the College is one of small handful of writing centers in the country that has distinguished itself for its diversity and student participation.

The Spy caught up with James last month to talk about the art and relevance of writing as well as the often underestimated value of being a good writer as college graduates seek their first jobs. The Chestertown resident also talks about his own aspirations for the Lit House and his hope there can be more town-gown programming and outreach.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. Additional video was provided by Washington College. For more information about the Rose O’Neill Literary House, please go here.

Mid-Shore Arts: Big Time Lawyer Ron Liebman Becomes Legal Thriller Bestseller

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For several decades now, the book publishing world has embraced and thrived with the addition of the so-called,” legal thriller” among its many offerings. From Scott Turow to John Grisham, this subgenre of crime fiction has soared in popularity with the reading public as writers use the law in the same way as police work has done in the solving mysteries.

Now with five books behind him, the former lawyer and big-time prosecutor of such high profile politicians such as Spiro Agnew and Marvin Mandell, Ron Liebman is beginning to be recognized as one of the new masters of this kind of fiction. The retired Patton Boggs attorney has attracted the attention of some the country’s most prestigious publishing houses like Simon & Schuster and Random House with his remarkable tales of legal intrigue, including his latest book entitled Big Law.

The Spy asked the Mid-Shore resident to talk about his new book as well as his own experience as a lawyer at one of the country’s largest and most successful law firms.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. Big Law is available at local bookstores and on Amazon here.
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Mid-Shore Arts: The National Music Festival Finds Its Sea Legs

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When Maestro Richard Rosenberg and his partner and wife, Caitlin Patton, informed Chestertown in late 2011 that the National Music Festival (NMF), with about one hundred musicians and dozens of planned public performances, would move to their town, one could almost hear the whole of Chestertown say collectively, “who, us, really?”

With a population close to 5,000, and at least forty to fifty miles away from urban centers that would traditionally do a better job in hosting such a large undertaking, Chestertown seemed an unlikely candidate for such a honor. Nonetheless, for a community that prides itself for its love of the arts, and particularly music, there was also a feeling that their small town had just won the lottery. 

Now entering its sixth year of operation on the Mid-Shore, Richard and Caitlin sat down with the Spy last month to talk about the remarkable success the NMF has been in Chestertown and how well suited it has become in bringing together some of the best student talent in the country to learn and perform throughout the region. They also talk about NMF’s year-long educational programming with local schools, and their aspirations for the Festival in the years ahead.

This video is approximately five minutes in length and made in cooperation with the Mid-Shore Community Foundation. For more information about the National Music Festival, please go here.  

Senior Nation: An Adult Son and Aging Mother Find a Solution at Dixon House

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Perhaps there is no greater and more difficult decision to make for an adult child of an aging parent than to determine that independent living has come to an end for their mother or father. While “aging in place” has become an increasingly attractive and realistic alternative for many in their senior years, those who enter their 90s, or in some special cases even their 100s, simply are not physically capable of maintaining houses or apartments.

That was certainly the case with Eric Horst and his mother, Natalie Horst. Eric, Natalie’s only living child, had difficulty at first convincing his mother, who was a healthy person overall, that it was time to leave her own home. She had led an active life as a realtor and was a very social person. He comments, “She wasn’t managing the household well anymore, her hygiene habits had changed and she wasn’t cooking meals any longer.”

He adds, “I had heard good things about Dixon House being a well-run facility from community members. It was also an affordable option for us and I was really impressed by the staff here. With its 18 rooms, it felt like a Victorian boutique hotel.”

Eric and Natalie came for a visit and looked at a room adjacent to the second-floor screened porch. He recalls, “The room was unoccupied and stark, so I decided to decorate it for her with blue and white bed linens and valences, in her favorite colors, her artwork from home, and some temporary furniture. I brought her back for the second visit and she stayed the night.”

Eric remembers that the first week of Natalie’s stay at Dixon House, she got her hair done and had a pedicure. With her usual sense of humor, Natalie quips, “I came for a haircut and pedicure and decided to stay!”

Natalie has made friends at Dixon House and Eric feels she is content. Eric’s partner, Mike Thielke, now also serves on the Dixon House Board of Directors. As a special treat on Natalie’s birthday each year, which she shares with one other resident, Eric buys crab cakes for all the residents and staff and hosts a birthday party. He also contributes throughout the year as needs arise, recently donating a flat screen television at Christmas. He comments, “I am a big fan of Dixon House. I have peace of mind that my mother is safe and being cared for here.”

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information on Dixon House, please go here.

What Would Martin Say? Ashley Jones on the Meaning of MLK in 2017

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For Pastor Ashley Jones, her first memory of Martin Luther King, Jr. comes from her mother who was in the eleventh grade was he was killed in Memphis in 1968. In fact, Ashley was born in Kent County some twenty-five years after his murder, and yet a personal connection with him has been a critical part of her life and her ministry.

As she prepares for her role as keynote speaker at Kent County’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast in Rock Hall next Monday, Ashley spent some time with the Spy to talk about this special relationship with the late civil rights leader. She also talks candidly about race relations now, and most importantly, she begins to answer the critical question of the day; What would Martin Luther King say in the face of this extraordinarily challenging time for African-Americans in the year 2017.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length