Mid-Shore Arts: The Looms and Art of Ulrika Leander

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The art world has just a few very special heros who take it upon themselves to work in mediums requiring intense intricacy, precision, and endless patience to complete their work. And nowhere else can one find that special breed stand out more than those who chose the art of tapestry for their artistic expression.

And one can officially include the Mid-Shore’s Ulrika Leander in that select group.

Starting at the age of thirteen in her native Sweden, Ulrika has become one of the great masters of the loom with her intentionally beautiful and large tapestries created in her generous studio a short walk from the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry.

Like clockwork, Ulrika works every day in front of one of her three custom-built looms to produce art that is proudly hung in museums and private homes throughout the world. With a typical project taking well over six months to complete, Leander has found a particular zone to operate in as she plots along a single line of fiber during a day’s work.

In her Spy interview a few weeks ago, she talks about this unique, centuries-old practice, and how she enjoys the special challenges that come with the making one-of-a-kind tapestries.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information on Ulrika Leander work and studio, please go here.

Why the River by Meredith Davies Hadaway

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During the holiday season, it’s easy to get caught up in the special images of Chestertown with festive lights glowing and a seamless supply of music, dance and theatre programs to enrich the yuletide season. And yet, more times than not, it is the Chester River, the glue that holds our community together, that stands far removed from the seasonal celebrations.

The Spy has attempted to remedy that sad omission in our Holiday message with a reading of “Why the River’ by poet Meredith Davies Hadaway. While Hadaway makes it clear that the title is more of a question than a statement, the answer is found in the poem itself, as it has been for those who love this river, with the words,

“because it traps the clouds so we can sail across/ both heaven and earth/ because it carries our tears, swells/ with our salt/ because it is a body/ because it bears our weight.”

This video is approximately one minute in length.

An award-winning poet and teacher of ecopoetry, Meredith Davies Hadaway is the author of three collections of poetry, At The Narrows, (2015) The River is a Reason (2011) and Fishing Secrets of the Dead (2005), all issued from Word Poetry. Hadaway’s work explores the birds, bugs, trees, marshes—and especially the waters—of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, evoking memory and mystery as they shape our braided lives. You can find her work at Bookplate in Chestertown and on Amazon here

Profiles in Spirituality: The Shore’s New Bishop on Christianity and Reconciliation after the Election

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It’s safe to say that Santosh Marray, the newly installed Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Easton. is the most diverse leader they have had since its founding in 1866. But you could also say he is one of most diverse in the entire Church with his extraordinary life story.

Having started his spiritual journey while growing up in Guyana, South America, Bishop Marray’s life in the Episcopal Church has since taken him to virtually every part of the globe. And it is this unique background that Marray brings to the Diocese at a time of unique challenges for his church and this country.

In his first Spy interview, Bishop Marray talks at great length about his experience in some of the farthest corners of the world as well his role with his church in Eastern North Carolina and Alabama. The net result of this extraordinary depth and range of experience can be found in his vision for the diocese, as well as his confidence that his church will be seen as he says as a wreck and ceiling reconciler. In our post-election America

This video is approximately nine minutes in length. For more information about the Episcopal Diocese of Easton please go here.

Senior Nation Profile: Janet Pfeffer on Using It or Losing It

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Whether it’s her classes at the YMCA in St. Michaels, Easton, or at Londonderry on the Tred Avon, Janet Pfeffer’s name has almost achieved cult status in her efforts to encourage older people to exercise on the Mid-Shore for many years.

Retiring in 2007 from the Talbot County Health Department, she came to the YMCA as a volunteer to help teach strength training, but as class size increased as did demand, Janet now runs a program that can serve up to 300 to 400 individuals year with her message of staying fit at any age.

The secret, she says, is as much to do with strength building and cardiovascular activity as it does with staying mentally fit. She, therefore, combines her classes with current event conversations, a word of the day, and other mental stimulation that not only motivates her students but makes their life more rewarding in a universal way.

The Spy caught up with Janet at the St. Michaels YMCA last week to discuss per observations about senior fitness and the phenomenal upside of remaining healthy as one ages.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Janet’s classes, please go to the YMCA here.

ESLC Plans a New Life for the Phillips Cannery in Cambridge

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When the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy made good on their promise to convert the McCord dry-cleaning plant in Easton into a new center for environmental organizations, it not only gave that town a first-class facility which brought in dozens of well-paid professionals to improve its downtown economic viability, it also created a model and how to take an abandoned building and repurpose it.

It is with these new skills that the organization has now begun work on the long neglected Phillips Cannery building in Cambridge in the hope of turning it 60,000 square feet facility into a hub for creative food production, retail and small business or entrepreneurial initiatives that build off of the Eastern Shore’s famed farming resources and growing local food economy.

Originally constructed in 1920 as a furniture factory, the building later became part of the Phillips Packing Company empire, which employed nearly 10,000 people at its peak in 1937 and purchasing over $1 million in products from Delmarva farmers annually. The plan calls for an open floor plan, soaring ceilings, and the opportunity to retain many historic architectural features in keeping with its authentic Eastern Shore manufacturing past. It will also be the future site of Cannery Park, a new “central park” that will incorporate active and passive spaces for recreation for Cambridge.

The Spy sat down with the Phillips project manager, Katie Parks last week at Bullitt House to talk about the project and its potential for Cambridge and the surrounding area.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about ESLC  or the Phillips project, please contact Katie at 443.695.1349 or kparks@eslc.org

Nancy LaMotte Trippe On Photography and Trees

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From the moment her father gave her the very first camera as a young child, Nancy (Nanny) Trippe has never really steered too far from the same subject matter she loved as a kid. Even after decades of developing her skills, the Easton-based photographer and owner of the Trippe-Hilderbrandt Gallery continue to see the Eastern Shore’s natural habitat as the material she most wants to record.

All of that work has paid off in many ways for Nanny. And one of those ways recently is to have her own exhibit at the Academy Art Museum. Entitled “Trees, Majesty and Mystery,” the gallery will be filled with large format photographs of her beloved Eastern Shore trees and other moments in nature that intrigue her.

The Spy sat down with Nanny to talk about the art of her photography and her approach to the unique geography of the Mid-Shore.

This video is approximately three minutes in length.

NANNY TRIPPE: TREES, MAJESTY AND MYSTERY December 3, 2016 – February 26, 2017. For more information, please go to the Academy Art Museum website here

Chesapeake Bank Founder Mike Macielag Looks Back after 30 Years

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While it seems to be common these days to celebrate Eastern Shore entrepreneurship, as it should be, it is sometimes hard to remember that this entrepreneurial spirit has been in Chestertown for some time. While it can be seen currently with new retail stores, manufacturing, or even courageously starting a local brewery, it is important to remember these younger people do walk in the footsteps of some very special folks who came before them.

And one story like that from the past is the remarkable founding of the Chesapeake Bank and Trust thirty years ago.

The young man at the time was a Washington College graduate named Michael Macielag who had been mentored by Roger Simpkins, the highly respected president of the Chestertown Bank for seven years but then found himself unemployed in the spring of 1986 when that Bank was to be sold off in a merger.

Facing very few prospects which would allow him to continue to live on the Shore, Mike assumed he would need to move to the Western Shore for job opportunities, but then stumbled on the news that Maryland National Bank would be selling off its Chestertown branch. Suddenly, the opportunity of a lifetime miraculously presented itself to start a new bank, and Mike made his move.

In less than a few months time, Macielag was able to attract close to 20 investors willing to put up $100,000 each or more to found the Chesapeake Bank and Trust. And the motive was a simple one from the start; they all wanted a bank to be focused on local interests and local needs without the influence and the interference of a large and distant parent corporation.

That was 30 years ago. Since then Chesapeake Bank and Trust has been faithful to the original investors mission statement and continues to be a critical resource for starting new businesses, helping with higher education loans, or allowing young couples to purchase their first home.

The Chestertown Spy spent a few moments last week talking to Michael about the founding of the bank, its original mission, and how he sees the Chesapeake Bank and Trust playing a critical role in a 21st century Kent County.

The Hospice Movement in Caroline, Kent and Queen Anne’s with Compass Director Heather Guerieri

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On any given day Compass Regional Hospice might be treating as many as eighty patients throughout the Kent, Caroline, and Queen Anne’s counties with end-of-life care and support. That is a remarkable number for such a rural region as the Mid-Shore, but it also is a very positive sign that the acceptance of Hospice care is increasingly being embraced in those communities.

The job of directing the care for those eighty patients and their families has been the primary charge of Heather Guerieri, the executive director of Compass, at a time when demand is clearly growing. But with that growth has also come regulatory and health care complexities that could easily swamp an untested administrator.

This is not the case at Compass. Closely tied to the Hospice movement on the Shore since starting her work in Caroline County as a student nurse in the 1990s, Heather has seen over twenty years a dramatic change in how our culture deals with end of life decisions.

In her interview with the Spy, Heather talks about the future of Hospice, particularly in Kent County, and her organization’s ability to successfully navigate the challenges of our health system to continue to provide an exceptional level of service for Mid-Shore families.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Compass Regional Hospice please go here.

 

Editorial: The Inn on the Chester – The Case for a WC Hotel & Conference Center

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Over the past few years, the Chestertown Spy has been less than discreet in advocating for a medium-sized, high-quality hotel for Chestertown. At the same time, it has also encouraged Washington College to assume a leadership role in its development.  Part of this is tied to the Spy’s desire for a bright, prosperous future for the town it loves, but also because it’s the right time and circumstances for WC to do so.

For decades, some very hard realities (capital, financing, market analysis, revenue projections) have given pause for such a role to dozens of WC leaders going as far back as the Douglass Cater administration in the 1980s. For reasons that were rational and irrational, the numbers never seemed to work enough to move forward with such a plan. Nonetheless, that interest and passion for such a facility remains as strong now as it did thirty five years ago.

Why? Because the rewards of building a Chestertown hotel are so strikingly transparent. The ability to accommodate medium-sized conferences, weddings, family reunions, returning alumni, prospective students and their parents, visiting dignitaries, as well as business people calling on local manufacturers, marketing firms, and other service industries, not only makes such a thing economically viable, these guests bring with them sizable discretionary dollars for shopping, dining, and other services.

The Inn at Swarthmore

The Inn at Swarthmore

In the world of higher education, even with relatively smaller schools, this has been the rationale in investing in the hospitality market. Over the last decade, countless schools have taken the plunge with hotel facilities ranging from twenty to eighty rooms.  Denison, Swarthmore, Kenyon, Gettysburg, Oberlin, Sewanee and W&L are just the latest examples of this trend.

While many of these schools may have better market capacity, larger endowments, and wealthier donor/investor constituencies to work with, the truth is that many other schools do not. That would include Flagler College, College of the Ozarks, Savannah College of Art and Design, or Wells College in upper state New York.

It may be true on the face of it that Chestertown and Washington College have significant handicaps to overcome in finding a solid business plan, the Spy’s albeit modest research into the business of town-gown hotels strongly suggests that these are minor roadblocks that can be effectively removed through creative financial and strategic partnerships.

Oberlin College is a good example.

In Oberlin’s case, a liberal arts college located in rural Ohio about an hour’s drive from Cleveland, the school ultimately built a hotel with seventy guest rooms that features a restaurant focused on local food and modest conference center. Planned to be “the cornerstone of Oberlin’s Green Arts District,”the facility’s 105,000 square feet also houses the college’s admissions and development staff. That sounds like a textbook definition of mixed use.The total cost was close to $36 million.

The expenses of a Chestertown equivalent would be significantly lower than that figure. Chestertown’s sweet spot for rooms would be more in the order of forty rooms. With that factored in, as well as a more similar comparison with the recently built Inn at Swarthmore, which cost closer to $25 million.

While $25 million sounds better than $35 million, it still turns out to be a huge sum for a small college in a small town. So where does Washington College get that kind of capital?

The Hotel at Oberlin

The Hotel at Oberlin

In the case of Oberlin, almost 60% of the construction costs were financed. Secondly, the school created a naming opportunity for a leadership donation (in this case $5 million from an Oberlin alum) and finally a consortium of donors/investors/community supporters to close the gap.

Another smart thing that Oberlin did was to place non-academic divisions of the school in the new building rather than build separate facilities. In this case, as noted above, Oberlin decided to relocate the College’s external relations staff there in order to maximize contact with prospective students, alumni, and donors under the same roof.

With waterfront access, a similar model could be used in Chestertown for WC alumni and admissions centers.  Or, equally appealing, would be to create a center that would include the hotel and one of its three centers of excellence like its renowned Center for Society and the Environment. Those strategies would undoubtedly add to the cost of the project but would reduce costs in other parts of the College’s capital budget.

Using a working number of $25 million, it would be mean that $15 million would be financed, a major donor, given a strong case for support, should be able to be found at the $3-5 million naming opportunity level, and the balance would come from other donors, investors, possible alumni timeshare programs, as well as the room guarantee contracts with the region’s larger institutions, included the College, the local hospital, manufacturers like Dixon Valve, and other, smaller service providers, schools, and retailers, proportionate to their annual need and circumstances.

Another factor that would make this goal achievable would be a strong “All In” response from the Town of Chestertown and Kent County. A project of this magnitude needs the careful escort of these governments through permitting and regulatory issues. And the project needs grassroots support from town citizens as well.

In the final analysis, as local developer John Wilson so clearly articulated in his interview with the Spy this fall, every project like this needs a champion. While Washington College must take the lead, a Chestertown hotel will need hundreds of champions to make this happen.

Let us hope the will is there.

Wax