About Dave Wheelan

Plein Air Easton: East Meets West with Master Jove Wang


Given the abundance of local and regional participants in Plein Air Easton, it’s something hard to remember that the Plein Air movement is an international one. And someone who makes that undeniably clear is the presence of one of China’s most celebrated artists, master Jove Wang, on Goldsbrough Street the other day.

Professor, author, and award-winning Plein Air painter, Wang has devoted over thirty years to move his work beyond the technically proficient into a world more associated with the extension of his soul.

In fact, Jove feels that the best metaphor for his work is that of a symphony conductor that delicately alters the impressions of light and color on canvas similar to someone leading an orchestra to bring out the very best performance.

As the invitation of Betty Huang, artist and owner of Studio B in Easton, Jove Wang makes his first appearance at Plein Air Easton with a live demonstration at the Avalon Theater on Friday starting at 9 am followed by a reception at Studio B (where is work is exhibited) on Saturday.

The Spy talked to Jove with the help of Betty’s translation skills to understand his three decade approach to his art and life.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information and events like this with Plein Art Easton 2019 please go here.

For the Love of Adkins Arboretum


What’s not to love about a 400-acre arboretum less than 30 minutes from your door for most of us living on the Mid-Shore? Nothing. But what is hard is to decide what you love the most about the Adkins Arboretum just outside Ridgely, Maryland.

This proves to be a difficult choice for the thousands of annual visitors and members of this natural Eastern Shore gem adjacent to the 4,000-acre Tuckahoe State Park in Caroline County. And it is particularly challenging for the Adkins staff who provide an extraordinary range of programming that includes nature, gardening, visual arts, music, poetry, and environmental education throughout the year.

All of that has not stopped the Spy in asking a few of the Adkins team what they loved the most of this “living collection” of more than 600 native plant species and natural forest. We sat down with Ginna Tiernan, its Executive Director:  Jenny Houghton, Assistant Director; Kellen McCluskey, Membership; and Emily Castle, who works on the Arboretum’s Funshine Garden, to confess their top choices.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Adkins Arboretum please go here.

Plein Art Easton Founder Nancy Tankersley Looks Back Fifteen Years


Nancy Tankersley has a good chuckle when remembering the first time she started talking to people in town about doing a Plein Air festival in Talbot County. She had just returned from the famed Carmel, California Plein Art event in 2004. And with a new gallery and studio opening on South Street in Easton that year, she felt the entire region could get a significant boost if Easton had its own.

And while everyone she met was polite, there was some humorous puzzlement, and a bit of a pushback from some local leaders before Nancy, with the help of Al Bond and Plein Air Magazine publisher Eric Rhoads, was successful in her making her case.

No one is baffled anymore.

After fifteen years, Plein Air Easton has turned out to be a remarkable major event for Talbot County and the surrounding area. With hundreds of artists in residence for days at a time, and twice that number of patrons eager to follow one of the most significant art movements in modern history, Nancy Tankersley prediction that it would be a net gain for the community proved spot on.

But even Nancy would be the first to tell you that no one back in 2004 could ever imagine the current world of Plein Air’s popularity and its impact on the contemporary art world.

The Spy sat down with Nancy at the Spy’s Easton studio to talk about Plein Air Easton’s roots and impact before all its artists start arriving next week.

This video is approximately seven minutes in length. For more information about Plein Air Easton please go here.



A Shore Mother Navigates the New World of Transgender Policy in Talbot County


It is relatively easy to have a conversation in the abstract about transgender identity in such fields as health, religion, or government policy, but it’s an entirely different matter when it comes to the everyday challenges of navigating the rights of individuals with accommodations such as restrooms and locker rooms.

And it’s also a very different story when it’s your child needing to be accommodated.

That was the case with Lynn Brennan and her family when a daughter became a son between the seventh and eighth grade in the Talbot County Public School district a few years ago. At a time when state and local governments had not developed guidelines for transgender students, Lynn’s family was the first locally to enter into this new and complex terrain for public schools, teachers, and students.

In her interview with the Spy, Lynn tells the compelling story of her family working with a St. Michaels school principal to thoughtfully prepare for this significant cultural change. And a lot of progress was made to respect her son’s access to bathroom and locker room facilities.

But all of this was before the Trump Administration’s rollback of Obama-era civil rights safeguards, or more recently, the Supreme Court weighing in favor of transgender access in Doe v. Boyertown Area School District this May.

We talked to Lynn a few weeks ago at the Spy HQ.

This video is approximately nine minutes in length. For more information about the Shore’s transgender community please go here




The Spy Newspapers of America with Steve Goldman


When I started the Chestertown Spy in 2009, I wasn’t convinced that having a local newspaper with “spy” in the masthead was the best idea around. During the months prior to launching my concept of a web-based, hyper-local and educational news source, I continued to postpone deciding on its name until the very last minute.

My heart said yes; I loved the fact that the new publication could be named after Chestertown’s first newspaper in 1793, but my mind said this could be a grave mistake. For every one person in town that knew of the original newspaper’s existence, there were nine people who could easily interpret the the word “spy” in less than generous ways.

Nonetheless, John Lang, the Spy’s first executive editor and former AP reporter, lobbied hard to use the old name, and I agreed to look again at the 18th century Spy one more time before we were to turn on the new site.

And in looking at the old version of the Chestertown Spy, I began to see how these two entities, divided by over two hundred years, would be remarkably similar in the content they would provide the community. While public affairs remained a primary focus, you can see in the early Spy a surprisingly wide range of topics that reflected a passion for the arts and culture.

With subjects as diverse as philosophy, health, education, spirituality, poetry, and storytelling, the first Spy surprisingly incorporated many of the same topics the new Spy inspired provide greater Chestertown. It was a perfect fit and I’ve never regretted the decision nor the responsibility in carrying on the original Chestertown Spy’s mission.

But this journey into the historic roots of the Spy also led me on a quest of sorts in understanding why so many colonial newspapers used that name in their masthead. By 1820, there were more than 14 newspapers in America that used that Spy in their name, starting with the venerable Massachusetts Spy which started in 1770.

And when I discovered that the largest private collection of historical newspapers in the United States was located in none other than Oxford Maryland, I drove over to meet its owner, Steve Goldman, who build this remarkable archive of American history to get a crash course on the Spy newspapers of America as well as his thoughts on journalism then and now.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about Stephen A. Goldman Historical Newspapers please go here.





Novelist Christopher Tilghman on Family Tales at the Hermitage


Given writer Christopher Tilghman’s talents as a storyteller, it should come to no surprise that his books constantly find themselves on the New York Times bestseller list. What is surprising though is his literary reliance on his multigenerational family home on the banks of the Chester River for his inspiration for those award-winning historical novels.

The Hermitage is a manor house that has stood in the same place in Queen Anne’s County since being built in 1659. The product of the first of many Richard Tilghmans who made their mark on the Eastern Shore, the Royal Navy surgeon, arrived to the new world in 1650, and set into motion the construction of what was known as “Tilghman’s Hermitage.”

And for countless generations, the Tilghman family has painstakingly maintained this historic property, ensuring that the numerous houses on the site are kept up for future Tilghmans to use and to continue the stewardship of one of Maryland’s most historic properties.

The University of Virginia Creative Writing teacher still makes the summer trek to return to the family homestead, but these frequent visits not only refresh memories of when, as one of his brothers coined the phrase, “I grew up coming here,” but it has allowed him to channel century old family stories into a framework for three novels and numerous short stories.

The Spy sat down with Chris at the Robert Morris Inn in Oxford for a quick chat prior to his talk on his most recent novel, Thomas and Beal in the Midi, hosted by the Mystery loves Company bookstore.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. Christopher Tighlman’s books are available at Mystery Loves Company and the Bookplate in Chestertown and, of course, Amazon

CBMM Celebrates Women and Boats


It seems fitting that while the Rosenfeld family’s photography is considered epic on so many levels in the world of art, it had to be pointed out to the legionary father and sons by a woman that they had documented the incredible 2oth Century arc of cultural change that women experienced as they transitioned from occasional passengers on board boats to literally taking the helm by the end of the 1900s.

The good news for the Rosenfelds was that this woman was Margaret Anderson Rosenfeld, the daughter-in-law of Stanley Rosenfeld. And through her meticulous research, Margaret, professor emeritus at the University of Delaware, has curated a remarkable collection of her family’s images at all stages of this progression.

First shown at the Mystic Seaport, and now on view at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, “On Land and On Sea: A Century of Women in the Rosenfeld Collection” is an outstanding narrative of women and their relationship with boats and the sea.

The Spy spent some time recently with Pete Lesher, chief curator at the CBMM, and its president, Kristen Greenaway, to better understand the exhibition of their observations about women and maritime history.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about “On Land and On Sea: A Century of Women in the Rosenfeld Collection” please go here.


Looking Back: Lawrie Bloom and 34 Years of the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival


One of the Mid-Shore’s best examples of having good luck was the serendipitous events that caused the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival to be created thirty-four years ago. And it begins with a Navy engineer with a love of sailing who decides to buy a summer home in St. Michaels in 1985.

There is nothing particularly noteworthy here except for the fact that Ralph Bloom, the new homebuyer, had a son who was a classical musician who happened to be affiliated with some of the best symphony orchestras in North America. And when he discovered that his family had a new home in St. Michaels, the first idea that popped into his head was how Talbot County would make a wonderful venue for a new chamber music festival. That musician was J. Lawrie Bloom, and in the thirty-four years since that moment took place, he and his friend and co-founder, Marcy Rosen, have built one of the most prestigious summer music programs of its type in the United States.

Now, after years of commuting from Chicago, where he is the bass clarinetist with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a professor of music at Northwestern University, Bloom has decided to step down from his role as the artistic co-director of the Chamber Music Festival this season and, to his great joy, will be replaced by violinist Catherine Cho, who will join Marcy Rosen in running the music program each year.

The Spy thought it was a good time to talk to Lawrie about the early beginnings of the festival and how it grew not only to be a first-class musical event but eventually became Chesapeake Music, which now sponsors its own jazz festival, a children program called First Strings, and the International Chesapeake Music Competition.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length. For more information about the Chesapeake Chamber Music Festival and Chesapeake Music please go here




Mid-Shore Arts: Kevin Fitzgerald and the Art of Landscapes at the Troika


There is a noticeable wince in artist Kevin Fitzgerald’s face when he is reminded that a significant number of his paintings are now hanging in the homes of celebrities including the home of Barack and Michelle Obama’s home in Washington, D.C.

While he remains humbled by this kind of unique success, it’s evident in his interview with the Spy the day before an exhibition of his work goes up at the Troika Gallery that he wants his remarkable landscapes of the Eastern Shore and the Atlantic coastline to stand on its own after decades of concentrating on horizontal perspectives of open space and water.

As the third generation of Fitzgerald artists, the Maryland Institute of Art alum experienced a turning point in his career when his wife and a gallery owner pushed him to show his work beyond his studio in Berlin near Ocean City. With representation in an Annapolis gallery in the 1990s, Kevin catapulted to the top of regional artists that allowed him to leave his day job as construction contractor and become the full time artist he had always hoped to be.

In his Spy interview at the Troika yesterday, the artist talks about his family background, the primal urge for human beings to seek out landscapes, and the extraordinary power of the Shore to calm and restore balance with the earth’s seasons.

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

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