The Waterfowl Festival in Easton, Md. celebrates its 50th anniversary this November (postponed from 2020 due to the pandemic). And organizers have announced its Featured Artist is an internationally-known sculptor whose ties to the festival run deep.
Bart Walter first exhibited his wood carvings at the Waterfowl Festival in 1974, at age 16. He grew up in Baltimore and spent his summers on the Eastern Shore, where he developed a love of the outdoors through hiking, fishing, hunting and canoeing.
“Bird carving was odd to my friends in Baltimore City,” said Walter. “The Waterfowl Festival opened my eyes to other people my age who had similar interests in art and nature. I fell in love with the Festival, and my fellow exhibitors and Festival volunteers became my extended family.”
Walter moved from wood carving to bronze sculpture in the late 1980s. He had the chance to meet Jane Goodall, the anthropologist who famously studied chimpanzee behavior, and she commissioned him to make two chimpanzee sculptures. They are both on display at the Jane Goodall Institute in Arlington, Va. Like Goodall, Walter likes to get as close to his wildlife subjects as possible.
His sculptures are on display at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., the Jackson Hole Airport in Wyoming, museums in France, and yes, in Easton, where his pair of geese with hatchlings sits in front of the Waterfowl building. Anyone who has visited the Waterfowl Festival has likely taken a photo in front of it.
“We are proud to have Bart Walter join us for our 50th Anniversary,” said Kevin Greaney, Waterfowl Festival Board President. “Bart has been part of the Festival Family for many years and shares our belief that art plays an important role in conserving the landscapes, habitats and heritage of the Eastern Shore.”
The Waterfowl Festival celebrates the heritage of Eastern Shore waterfowling, and raises funds for conservation efforts, too. The festival began in November 1971 with three small exhibits in downtown Easton . Today it includes more than a dozen venues throughout the town, with an annual economic impact to the area of nearly $3 million.
Before the 50th festival begins, Walter will create a sculpture specially commissioned for the 2021 Waterfowl Festival. It will be unveiled this summer.
“I am honored to be part of this ‘homecoming,’ to celebrate this significant anniversary with such a wonderful community of artists and volunteers.”
Organizers say the partnership with Walter has been years in the making, but couldn’t come at a better time following the pandemic.
“We offer this announcement with excitement for this fall and a Festival where everyone has renewed excitement for friendships, community and the beauty of our natural world,” says Waterfowl Chesapeake Executive Director Margaret Enloe.
-Meg Walburn Viviano