Artist George Lorio puts finishing touches on his installation, "Sea Rise". Photo courtesy of CBMM

Museum Opens “Changing Chesapeake” Exhibit Using Community-Curated Art

The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) has a new exhibit at its St. Michaels campus, but this one is a little different than the restored wooden boats and antique oystering artifacts visitors have loved for decades.

The Changing Chesapeake is a “community response” exhibition featuring both traditional and nontraditional pieces of art. CBMM put out a public call for submissions to both experienced artists and everyday people willing to experiment with art. Artists were asked to reflect on climate change, how humans’ impact on the environment shapes their Chesapeake Bay experience and what they’d want someone 100 years from now to know about life and traditions on the Bay.

Creators submitted works in all kinds of media—stop-motion animation, found-object art, quilting, original songwriting, embroidery, poetry, and sculpture also with the more expected paintings and photography. Through a review process panelists from the community helped select more than 75 works out of 125 responses, which are now on display at the museum’s Steamboat Gallery.

The five panelists are from Maryland and Delaware and represent the art, arts education and science communities from around the Bay region.

The 75 works are grouped together around important Chesapeake themes. CBMM spokesman Eric Detweiler tells us, “There’s a group downstairs [in the Steamboat Gallery] featuring ghost forests, including works of photography by Geoff Delanoy and John Hooven, watercolor by John Hostalka, quilt by Laura Guertin, and song by Thelma Jarvis Peterson.

Upstairs in the building, another collection spotlights sea-level rise. It includes paintings of Holland Island, scenes of Hoopers Island, and a head-turning large sculpture by George Lorio called “Sea Rise”.

In his artist statement, Lorio says his artwork “echoes the changing water levels due to climate change that are inundating the Bay shore. I am aware of the vulnerability of the Chesapeake Bay due to climate change.”

The piece below, a “photo-artistic montage”, is titled “Tangier Abandoned.” Artist Tom Payne shows a fantastical depiction of Tangier Island underwater.

Elsewhere, nature photographer Dale Hall captures the changes in nature and the changes watermen go through working the creek where he lives, just off the Bay on Kent Island.

“Price Creek is an especially nice spot to run a trotline, it being a protected waterway without a lot of turbulence or many boats. I love trying to capture an especially interesting composition with the small boats going back-and-forth along the trotline,” Hall says of his work.

Detweiler says when put together, the dozens of artworks “address many of the issues facing the region’s future in unique ways and tell an interesting story put together in our exhibition.”

The Changing Chesapeake exhibit opened March 1, and the next afternoon nearly 200 CBMM members and artists themselves gathered for an opening event. The Changing Chesapeake has already captivated visitors.

The project is supported by CBMM’s Regional Folklife Center under the Maryland Traditions program of the Maryland State Arts Council. To learn more about how the exhibit was developed, watch this video.

The Changing Chesapeake will be up through Feb. 25, 2024, so there’s plenty of time to check it out on your next trip to the museum’s St. Michaels campus. It’s free with museum admission.

-Meg Walburn Viviano