This column in Attraction, by Amelia Blades Steward, will visit the faces of those who have benefited from the generous and tireless work of the nonprofits on the Mid Shore and those behind these nonprofits. Perhaps unknown to many of us, these individuals have had their lives transformed by the missions of these organizations and are giving back in unique ways to better our world. Amy has been a freelance writer in our community for over 20 years and offers a glimpse into the lives of residents on the Mid Shore whom she has met along the way.
Busy Graham, Founder and Executive Director of Carpe Diem Arts, is no stranger to the arts community in Maryland. She has devoted most of her life to the arts and education, from a music teacher to an artist representative to a nonprofit administrator and arts advocate. In 2005, Busy founded Carpe Diem Arts with a mission to engage communities across generations and cultures through the visual, literary, and performing arts, with an emphasis on the traditional arts and on outreach to diverse and under-resourced audiences in the National Capital region and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The Eastern Shore has been fortunate to have had her leadership and attention as she has brought unique arts programming to the schools and the communities on the Mid Shore.
After a bit of a pause during the pandemic, Carpe Diem Arts is offering to all ages, in partnership with Brookletts Place and the Talbot County Free Library, the opportunity to participate in a wonderful season of free concerts. “The Virtual Heritage Concert Series” is scheduled on the fourth Friday of the month beginning at 4 p.m. through June and will be presented via Zoom and Facebook Live.
“The arts are largely responsible for our social and emotional well-being – nurturing mind, body, and spirit, especially now in our time of need and grief. I believe that the arts matter – in our towns, our schools, our communities, in the life of every citizen – and that through creative partnerships, we can make the power of the arts accessible and beneficial to all,” comments Busy.
“It was one of those ‘Seize the Day’ moments – when both Brookletts Place and the Talbot County Free Library expressed interest in doing a Cultural Heritage Series. Not to mention the urgency of the need for artists to receive some paid work at a time when all of their tour dates have been canceled and other opportunities are hard to come by. Our dream is to see three and even four generations in the Zoom Room together watching these free concerts!”
Carolyn Jaffe, outreach coordinator for Carpe Diem Arts, adds, “By being virtual, these concerts are accessible to all – students in public and private schools, homeschooled students, families, and senior citizens. This is especially important to audiences on the Eastern Shore.”
The series, hosted by vocalist extraordinaire Karen Somerville from Chestertown, began in February with a concert featuring Karen Somerville and Kathy and Phillip Bullock and continued on March 26 with the Irish duo Rakish, vocalist Lea Gilmore, Violinist Maura Shawn Scanlin and guitarist Conor Hearn.
On April 23, Egyptian-American singer Maggie Yacoub will share her diverse musical palette in celebration of Arab-American Heritage Month. Her inspiration derives from her passion for both Western and Eastern music, including pop, jazz, soul, and Arabic jazz fusion.
Known far and wide for her angelic voice and superb accompaniment on guitar and ukulele, Shore chanteuse Chris Noyes will also serenade participants with a medley of hauntingly beautiful melodies and songs to honor the 51st anniversary of Earth Day.
The May 28 concert will feature award-winning recording artist Patricia Shih with a sing-along selection of American favorites, plus a Chinese song in honor of Asian-American Heritage Month. A multiple national award-winning singer/songwriter, Patricia is also an award-winning painter, glass artist, and filmmaker. Caron Dale will then lead participants on a memorable musical journey in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, with a nod to Mother’s Day as well. Caron is an award-winning songwriter, the leader of the band Lox & Vodka, and founder of Chords of Courage, a non-profit that encourages youth to write powerful songs about people of unusual courage.
The grand finale of the series will be on June 25 in celebration of Caribbean-American Heritage Month, with Grammy Award winners Dan and Claudia Zanes. Juneteenth (June 19) will also be honored with Revels’ Jubilee Voices, featuring director Andrea Blackford and her husband Harold, along with James Harkless, sharing songs and stories from the African-American experience of struggle and perseverance, trials and triumphs.
“One of the silver linings of this situation we find ourselves in, with virtual versus in-person engagement, is the opportunity to be ‘in the same room’ with friends and family across the country, across the globe in some cases, depending on time zone differences. There has also been a rather unique chance to share in these remarkable experiences, from the intimacy of the artists’ living rooms direct to the comfort of our living rooms,” states Busy.
“There have been many times when we have had three generations of a family attending an event together and friends from many faraway places who are so happy to see each other again, even in those little Zoom window box frames. They can have a chat in the chat box and share personal messages and impressions, pin their photos and make them full-size, and then talk about the experience afterward. There will also be some time after the concerts for audience members who wish to linger longer and ask the featured artist(s) a question or engage in a conversation,” she adds.
Some of the activities of Carpe Diem Arts in the past have included facilitating arts enrichment activities: workshops, masterclasses, residencies, after-school programs; concerts and special events; community dances and community sings, summer arts camp experiences, and weekend retreats for adults and families, with opportunities to work closely with professional teaching artists; and integrating the arts in early childhood education. Another current quest is to fund retreats for artists and nonprofits on the Eastern Shore providing nonprofits with the time and space to refuel and reframe their future, and artists with opportunities to create new work.
Busy, who plans to retire as Carpe Diem’s executive director within the next year, will be shifting her focus to the seeds already planted in Talbot County; in outreach to early childhood centers, schools, libraries, community centers, special needs facilities, retirement communicates and senior centers.
“Carpe Diem Arts has earned a reputation for the quality, diversity, and integrity of its programs and for developing creative partnerships to further deepen its impact and broaden its reach, while also providing meaningful and remunerative work for hundreds of artists. We appreciate the support of individuals, foundations, and corporations who will continue to help Carpe Diem Arts build capacity and ensure the continued success and sustainability of these programs,” states Busy.
“Our work has always been focused on creating opportunities for artists of diverse backgrounds to unite, energize and inspire individuals and communities through the arts, while also addressing issues of social change – breaking down barriers, helping individuals and communities build agency, and providing an outlet for creative expression to better understand and reflect the world around us.”
The Heritage Concert Series provides an opportunity to experience the rich diversity of culture and religions in our communities. The virtual concerts are made possible by the generous support of the Brookletts Place/Upper Shore Aging Fund of the Mid-Shore Community Foundation, Talbot County Free Library (TCFL), Talbot County Arts Council with revenues provided by the Maryland State Arts Council, and by individual contributors to Carpe Diem Arts, Brookletts Place, and TCFL. For further information and Zoom/Facebook links, visit www.carpediemarts.org/brookletts-place.