Mid-Shore Arts: A Spectacular Monument Planned to Honor Fireworks’ Best Friend


It’s too bad that liberal arts colleges don’t offer undergraduate majors in the field of fireworks. If they did, Washington College would undoubtedly find itself as one of the top schools in the country.

That is mainly because of the research work of the late WC professor Joseph McLain. Already known for his pioneering work in WWII with the development rocket propellant formulas, smoke grenades, and underwater torch blowers, McLain used this knowledge to usher in an entirely new era of firework science and design.

While some would consider McLain’s passion for fireworks science-driven, the truth was that as a product himself of a liberals arts education, his curiosity was equally related to the art that resulted from this form of combustion.

His capacity of multidisciplinary thinking was one reason Joe McLain was appointed president of his alma mater in 1973,  all the while encouraging his former student, and later colleague, Dr. John Conkling, to rise to become one of the nation’s foremost authorities on fireworks.

The fireworks connection was always on the mind of his daughter, Lynn McLain, as she pondered a fitting memorial for her father’s work at Washington College. This only grew as she discussed her idea with college officials and local arts leader Alex Castro, and the result promises to turn out to one of the most spectacular public art displays on the Eastern Shore.

With much of the money in hand , and with the blessing of the college’s current president, Kurt Landgraf, work will start soon on the installation of “Radiant Echo” by Baltimore-based artist Glenn Shrum and his design team at Flux Studio. The goal is to turn on this light sculpture in time to welcome a new freshman class in the fall of 2019.

The Spy caught up with Lynn and President Landgraf in Chestertown a few weeks ago to get some details. We also were able to chat Glenn via Skype to understand how remarkable this addition will be for both arts and science community of the Eastern Shore.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. To make a donation to the Radiant Echo project, Checks can be made out to the Washington College Office of Advancement, with “Atrium Sculpture Project” in the memo line. Please sent to the Washington College Office of Advancement, 300 Washington Ave., Chestertown, MD 21620.

About Dave Wheelan


Letters to Editor

  1. Carla Massoni says

    Wonderful news!! We have another public art installation shepherded by Alex Castro in Wilmer Park. Broad Reach is dedicated to Alex and the generosity of Lynn and her classmates from high school helped make it possible. I miss Alex and Kelly. They contributed so much to creative thinking and wonderful projects through Washington College/Sand Box and their involvement with Chestertown. Their fingerprints can still be found in initiatives underway at the Kent County Arts Council and in the hearts and minds of all who interacted with them.

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