July 9th, 2014

Happy Crabs Have Old Bay Seasoning: A Brief History

You’re at your local supermarket and you walk down the spice aisle. Tubes of spices – basil, oregano, thyme – line a section of the wall, but a yellow, red, and blue can catches your eye. It’s what you came for: Old Bay, perfect for applying to crabs, shrimp, corn on the cob, french fries, green tomatoes, beer, nearly everything (except maybe dessert, but if you have a recipe share in the comments!). The can goes into your shopping cart and into your pantry beside unexciting jarred spices collecting dust. Its crab season, and we all know that oregano on crabs isn’t good. You need Old Bay. You’ve already used two cans this summer, just like past Marylanders have been using the spice for 75 years.

Old Bay can

Maryland’s history is rooted in culture. The state has been host to major turning points in American history—important battles of The War of 1812, The Civil War, and the Civil Rights movement where students waged one of the first successful lunch counter sit-ins.  But our cultural heritage is also mixed (pardon the pun) with our love of food, the bounty of the bay, and of course—Old Bay Seasoning.

While Old Bay’s history is not nearly as revolutionary as the monumental events mentioned above, the history of the spice plays a part in Maryland’s heritage, and Old Bay has a story worthy of sharing.

Gustav Brunn came to Baltimore in 1938, barely escaping Nazi Germany with his wife and trusty spice grinder (something he couldn’t go without). When he arrived, he fell back on his work as a spice merchant to support himself and his wife, and he landed a job at McCormick Spices that lasted less than a week.  He was fired because of his poor English skills, and also, according to an interview with Brunn by The Baltimore Sun in 1980, because he was Jewish.

But as we all know (because we continue to use his blend), he quickly established himself into the community despite McCormick’s blow.  He created his own business, Baltimore Spice Company. The business focused on spice blends for meats, but Brunn quickly realized that customers had a large appetite for crabs. In 1939, one year after he arrived in Baltimore, he created a spice primarily for seafood, catering to Baltimore’s taste buds. He had his customers, primarily meat vendors, try the blend and offer it to their customers. While not an immediate success, the spice blend gradually gained ground in the community.

Old Bay Line poster

He named the blend “Delicious Brand Shrimp and Crab Seasoning” or “India Girl” according to some sources. Whatever the name was it didn’t last long. He changed the name of the spice to Old Bay, in honor of the Old Bay Line that ferried people from Baltimore to Norfolk, Virginia. Because the Old Bay Line was such a staple in Baltimorean lives, the name of the spice quickly caught on. Sales rose, but even so, the spice never amounted to many sales in the early years of the company.

Baltimore Spice Co. was family operated and owned until 1985 when Brunn sold the company to Smith Corona Machines, shortly before his death. Five years after Brunn died, McCormick Spices bought the blend in 1990 for reportedly over $10 million dollars. It’s ironic. The man who came to Baltimore with so little created a business which sold for millions to the same company that said he could no longer work for them.  McCormick still has ownership, and fortunately, the spice blend and image hasn’t changed from Brunn’s original vision.

Do you have any stories to share about Old Bay Seasoning? A recipe that you would be willing to share with our readers? What do you think of the new Old Bay flavored foods that are popping up everywhere?  What’s the craziest thing you’ve seasoned with Old Bay? Post it in the comment section!

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June 25th, 2014

Chautauqua Scholar Q&A: Kelley Rouse as Georgia O’Keeffe

So what about those Georgia O’Keeffe flower paintings? This week’s Q&A with Kelley Rouse, performer of Georgia O’Keeffe for this year’s Chautauqua series, answers questions that viewers of O’Keeffe’s art are left wondering. We spoke about beginning research, O’Keeffe’s life and the reason she painted, and Ms. Rouse’s favorite performing memories.  Ms. Rouse provides a brief, broad history of Georgia O’Keeffe, but I won’t give away what was said. You’ll have to find that in the interview. And be sure to check the schedule to see when and where Ms. Rouse will be performing!

(MHC) What drew you to Georgia O’Keeffe?

Kelley Rouse as Georgia O’Keeffe

(KR) Discovering Georgia O’Keeffe was rather serendipitous through a chance encounter. A woman who had seen my one-woman show on Jeannette Rankin suggested I look into a play she had seen in Baltimore about the artist Georgia O’Keeffe. She couldn’t remember the name of the play so I did an internet search. I never discovered the play she was referring to, but I did discover Martha Fuery’s play “O’Keeffe: Sunset of an Artist.” I contacted Ms. Furey and she sent me her script to review. I was immediately drawn to it. I knew a little of Georgia O’Keeffe, of course. Mostly that she painted huge flowers and skulls, but became fascinated with how this woman managed to craft an artist’s life against the odds of gender and time in history. O’Keefe’s passion and determination continues to inspire me.

(MHC) Georgia O’Keeffe led a loner life for the most part. How did her lack of public appearances affect your research?

(KR) For being a loner, there is plenty of written word, and, of course, her art, that lends itself to discovering much about her. Georgia O’Keeffe’s quotes and anecdotal accounts from family and friends easily demonstrate the artist’s acerbic wit and her dry Midwestern sense of humor. Anita Politzer, her friend from art school in New York, also published a book with very revealing letters from O’Keeffe that speak so fully of her thoughts on art, life and love. From the point of an actress, however, one is always interested in the character’s physical bearing, mannerisms and presence. How did she walk, smile, talk, or laugh? I resisted watching other actresses portray O’Keeffe, because I wanted my own interpretation. I finally located a VHS tape of a film made late in the artist’s life in New Mexico, by Perry Adato at my local library. (this was pre-YouTube days!) That was so illuminating. And, of course, Alfred Stieglitz took very private pictures of O’Keeffe, that became enough of a “public appearance” for the artist, I imagine, to last a life time.

(MHC) What were Georgia O’Keeffe’s beginnings?

(KR) O’Keeffe’s beginnings were humble, born on a dairy farm in the Midwest in 1887. Certain things stand out, though, that I believe were critical to her development. It was a rural prairie environment and she spent a lot of time out-of-doors. Most biographies note O’Keeffe could entertain herself for hours in nature, in fact preferring her time alone. They may have been to escape the crowd of six siblings. It seems that her mother, aunts and grandmother ruled the roost in the household and that her mother made sure Georgia and her sisters had art lessons as children. I think the strong women in her family, her focus on nature and exposure to art laid the foundation for the development of her art, originality and independence.

(MHC) Georgia O’Keeffe quit painting for a period of time but came back to her art a few years later. What was her reasoning for quitting and why did she come back?

(KR) After years of being a student of art, O’Keeffe says she grew tired of doing art for other people’s approval. She felt she was only imitating what had already been done. She wasn’t painting for herself. So she stopped painting. O’Keeffe later said she wanted to paint in terms of her own thinking and feeling. Her break-through abstractions came when she put convention aside and trusted her own feelings. O’Keeffe also stopped painting for 13 months, later in life after suffering a nervous breakdown in 1933. Stunning landscapes in New Mexico provoked new creative energy for O’Keeffe and helped inspire her to begin painting again.

(MHC) Place is an important part of her art, primarily New Mexico. What do you think she did differently when painting landscapes?

 

Ram’s Head with Hollyhock, 1935 by Georgia O’Keeffe

(KR) Wherever O’Keeffe was, she painted landscapes. It seemed to connect her to whatever place she happened to be. But when she got to New Mexico, she was mesmerized by the country. I think what is different about her painting landscapes was her ability to capture the scope, depth and breadth of the beauty– the vastness of the sky, the essence of the desert or mountains through her vibrant colors– the magic of the land through her ability to paint the light. One can imagine what a sensation these landscapes caused when first shown back east to people who had never experienced the rugged and wild west.

(MHC) People often associate O’Keeffe’s flower paintings with female anatomy drawings, but she adamantly rejected the association. Why is that?

Corn No.2, 1924 by Georgia O’Keeffe

(KR) O’Keeffe was always adamant about critics putting “their” feelings on her art. Her paintings reflected her spiritual connection to flowers, or anything, for that matter, that she painted. O’Keeffe said she was influenced by the art theorist, and considered “father of abstract art,” Wassilly Kandinsky’s writings Concerning the Spiritual in Art which emphasized spiritual metaphors. Her art was her communication of her feelings and getting to the essence of her subject matter. It was a reflection of her psyche. Technically, she also was influenced by the photography of Paul Strand. She observed the power of cropping an image, which allowed her to break a subject down to its essence. In her flowers she also replicated the precision of the image that is captured by camera. The sexual interpretations of O’Keeffe’s work were fostered by the publics’ early introduction of the artist through the intimate photographs of O’Keeffe taken by Alfred Stieglitz and also the popularity of Freudian psychology at the time. It was common for critics to comment that a woman-artist gave “birth” to their creations. O’Keeffe did not want to be known as a good “woman” artist, rather a good artist.

(MHC) What is the most interesting facet of O’Keeffe’s life?

(KR) I think it was her ability to recreate herself, or rather redefine herself as an artist by claiming New Mexico as her own.  Early on Alfred Steiglitz, a brilliant strategist, introduced and shaped public opinion of O’Keeffe’s work. She was a “woman on paper.”  After New Mexico, her work took a dramatically new turn. She had to break-free of Stieglitz, the pain of his public affair with Dorothy Norman, and the perceptions everyone had developed of who she was to save her own creative energy.

(MHC) Do you have any favorite performance memories?

(KR) My favorite performances have been when my mother and father have been in the audience. They always nurtured and encouraged my love of acting, understanding from the time I was a child that it was my source of joy.

(MHC) What is it like reincarnating Georgia O’Keeffe on stage?

(KR) It’s a powerful and helpful experience to attempt to channel O’Keeffe’s courage, independence and commitment to her art. Helpful, because although sometimes larger than life, she struggled with the issues common to many woman. The fight for independence, recognition, the desire to be loved and to love, the demons of self-doubt that Georgia O’Keeffe fought are part of all human experience. I appreciate and learn from reincarnating her every performance.

(MHC) If not Georgia O’Keeffe, who would you perform as?

(KR) I have always been a writer and performer. My dream is to one day thread together some of my stories about my experiences into my own one-woman show about myself.

(MHC) What are you most excited about for this year’s Chautauqua series?

(KR) Acting has been my artistic passion since I was young. I always had dreams of being on Broadway, or working for a Repertory company. As the saying goes, “life got in the way.” The challenges of balancing an alternate career and raising children, although immensely rewarding, never left room for really taking a show “on-the-road.” With Chautauqua I will have that experience. I am thrilled to finally have a chance to have so many consecutive performances. There is much preparation for a one-woman show, so I am excited to reap the artistic benefit of more than a one-night performance.   Because of the Q & A as O’Keeffe that will follow the performance as part of the Chautauqua experience, I have also been revisiting research. I am rediscovering and gaining new insight that I hope will add to my portrayal. I find the whole process of preparation absorbing and exciting as I begin to live, breath and think like Georgia O’Keeffe.

If you liked this Q&A, MHC interviewed the two other Chautauqua performers, MiMI Zannino performing as Emily Dickinson and Marian Licha performing as Frida Kahlo. Be sure to read those interviews for information about the scholars and the historical women. Chautauqua runs from July 5th – July 14th, and check out our Youtube page if you want to see some of our past performers. We hope to see you at the performances!

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June 17th, 2014

Chautauqua Scholar Q&A: Marian Licha as Frida Kahlo

The Maryland Humanities Council (MHC) Chautauqua event is less than a month away, and in preparation for the performances, MHC spoke with the women headlining the events. The performances run from July 5th to July 14th. This week’s interview is with Marian Licha, performing scholar of Frida Kahlo. We spoke about Frida Kahlo’s life, art, and legacy. Marian Licha succinctly summarized Frida Kahlo’s importance, and anyone wanting to know more, or even glean questions for the Chautauqau, will enjoy her words.

Marian Licha as Frida Kahlo

(MHC) What drew you to Frida Kahlo and what was the research involved?

(ML)What drew me to Frida was that I knew I wanted to write a one-woman show about a Hispanic woman, and a friend of mine who’s Mexican American suggested that I write about Frida Kahlo.  At that time I had seen many of her paintings, and I thought they were so stunning that I knew then that I definitely wanted to know more about this woman and to base my play on her world.   I started reading every book I could find about Frida.  I also joined the Playwrights’ Forum (PF) so I could bring in writingand get feedback.  One of the teachers at PF at the time was Karen Zacarias, and she helped me a lot in the process as well as one of the students in the class, R Dennis Green, who became a co-author of “Frida Vice-Versa.”  I also listened to interviews of people who had known Frida.  There were many resources and books to read about this fascinating woman.  One day, Karen said to me, “stop the research, and start writing.”  That day I wrote the first scene, and slowly more and more scenes were written.  Then, the challenge was how to put all of these scenes together and have a story with a beginning, middle, and end.   From the beginning I had envisioned that Frida would be teaching a class and my co-author reminded me about that original idea.  That was how the structure of the play became a Master class with ten lessons becoming the thread that put together the scenes.  Frida Kahlo had taught painting in real life, so I wanted the one-woman show to be as true to her life as possible.

(MHC) How did you prepare to become Frida, thinking of the acting process?

(ML) When it comes to the acting, I trained at The Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in NY, and this method acting technique makes you draw experiences from one’s own life to create the reality of the character.  The director, Jessica Lefkow,  helped to bring out the specific moments to convey.  It was a combination of the acting, training, intuition, and direction.

(MHC) What were Frida Kahlo’s beginnings?

(ML) Frida Kahlo was born in 1907, but she claimed to be born in 1910 because that was the year of the outbreak of the Mexican Revolution.  She was the daughter of a German Jew called Guillermo Kahlo, and her mother was a devout Catholic called Matilde Calderon.  Guillermo was a successful photographer who was commissioned by the Mexican government to take pictures of the nation’s architectural heritage.  Frida would accompany Guillermo on his outings and his style clearly influenced Frida’s paintings. Frida had polio at age six and a trolley accident when she was a teenager that affected her health throughout her whole life.  She had many operations and was unable to complete a pregnancy.  While she was bed bound for a year, she started painting.  Her easel had a mirror attached to it so she could see herself and that’s how she started painting self-portraits.  Before the accident, she had wanted to study to be a doctor.  She was accepted at the most prestigious school in Mexico, The National Preparatory School.

  • Check out the schedule to see when and where Marian Licha will be performing!

 (MHC) Frida Kahlo was involved in a wreck that caused her pain throughout most of her life, and her physical pain is prevalent in all of her paintings. But Diego Rivera, her husband, also caused her enormous heart pain. Can you tell us a little bit about that story and how it influenced her work?

(ML)Frida took Diego as a mentor after her trolley accident.  She showed up at The Ministry of Education in Mexico City where Diego Rivera was painting a mural, to show her some of her paintings.  She warned him that she wasn’t there to flirt with him but to get his opinion about her paintings as she was not going to paint for her own vanity, she had to help her parents financially.  He was very impressed at how Frida could express her feelings in her paintings.  His philandering caused Frida much pain.  She expressed this pain in her paintings.  A good example is the painting entitled “Self-Portrait with Cropped Hair.”  In the painting Frida is sitting with a pair of scissors in hand and there’s hair on the floor and she has a short haircut.  Diego loved her long hair and she had threatened to cut it if she continued his affair with Paulette Goddard or maybe it was with her own sister Cristina. The painting and the cutting was in response to his affairs.  Another self-portrait called “Diego and I” shows her despair over his philandering.  Diego’s portrait is in her forehead but he seems to be somewhere else and Frida’s hair seems to be strangling her.

“Diego and I” by Frida Kahlo

(MHC) Frida Kahlo is such a historical figure, and a lot of people are familiar with her name. Some people, however, may not be familiar with her impact. Could you summarize the importance of her work?

(ML) In fighting and ultimately overcoming the prejudice of a then male-centric art world – even outshining for a time her famous, talented husband Diego Rivera – she demonstrated by example how women can earn respect.  She was the first Latin American woman to exhibit a painting in The Louvre.  A year before her passing, Frida had a one woman show in Mexico City, which was unheard of for a woman at the time.  Her paintings were always personal and she didn’t follow any school. The subject of her paintings was always her sensations, her states of mind, what she could not say any other way. She wanted her work to be a contribution to the struggle of the people for peace and liberty.

 (MHC) Why is Frida Kahlo such an important figure in feminism?

(ML) I think because her story appeals to women.  She painted and took her work to dealers and museums when women’s art was not taken seriously.  She didn’t let her gender get in the way of achieving her dream of becoming a painter.  She also had affairs with women as well as with men.  She had a strong sense of self.

 (MHC) Do any of Frida Kahlo’s communist political ideologies emerge in her work?

(ML)I’d say that her political ideology was sometimes reflected in her paintings.  Toward the end of her life, she tried to add political inscriptions, flags and doves nesting among the fruits of her still lives. She tried to do socialist art but her still lives are more of an expression of life and nature.  One painting that reflects her political ideology is one in which there’s an image of herself dividing Mexico and the United States.  The American side is crowded with buildings and machines.  The Mexican side has old Aztec ruins and shows heritage.  Frida is depicted holding a Mexican flag.  Also, in the painting entitled The Bus, she includes stereotypes of Mexican society who range in social class.  She portrayed them with humor.

“Self-portrait on the Borderline Between Mexico and the United States” by Frida Kahlo

(MHC)  Do you get any questions that are particularly hard to answer at a performance?

(ML) I’ve been lucky not to have questions that were difficult to answer in Q&A’s.

(MHC)  Do you have a favorite performance memory?

(ML) Yes.  Before a performance at a high school I was told that because of class schedules, a whole class was going to have to leave the performance before the show was over.  I warned them that Frida wasn’t going to be pleased about that.  When the time came for the class to leave, Frida looked in that direction and caught the eye of a sixteen year old young man who gave Frida the thumps up.

Also joining Ms. Licha is MiMi Zannino as Emily Dickinson and Kelley Rouse as Georgia O’Keeffe. Follow up on our blog next week to check out the Q&A with Kelley Rouse. Also, watch some of our past Chautauqua’s on our Youtube page, and don’t forget to check the schedule to find an event location close to you.  We hope to see you at the Chautauqua!

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June 11th, 2014

Chautauqua Scholar Q&A: MiMi Zannino as Emily Dickinson

Excited for Chautauqua? In preparation for our Chautauqua event, Creative Women: Breaking the Mold, featuring Emily Dickinson, Frida Kahlo, and Georgia O’Keeffe, running from July 5th to July 14th, the Maryland Humanities Council interviewed MiMi Zannino, performing scholar of Emily Dickinson. We spoke about what makes Emily Dickinson interesting, about MiMi’s own poetry, and about her anticipation for the Chautauqua event.

(MHC) Why Emily Dickinson? 

 

Emily Dickinson daguerreotype

(MZ)I was searching for a challenge that would combine my love of poetry, theater and American history. I’d seen the live solo performance of The Belle of Amherst 25 years ago and was fascinated. But when researching current scholarly works 6 years ago, it became clear that there were layers and sparkling facets to Dickinson that lay hidden from the world. She was being mythologized in a limiting framework of obscure details. Quickly I began to embody the depth and breadth of her life, her passions and her view of the world through her words in personal letters and through her poetry. Patterns emerged that guided my script to allow her to speak. I am simply the vessel and the physical voice. The portrayal is all Emily. It is definitely not an impersonation. Rather it’s an homage or tribute. And perhaps an interpretation of subtle meanings as I use my voice to give emphasis or use tone to suggest mood

(MHC)What made you want to perform?

(MZ)I have been adapting stories since about 9 years old. I adapted the story and played the part of Snow White in elementary school; Mary Poppins in middle school; and I played the part of Juliet—as in Romeo and Juliet—in 9th grade and Nellie Forbush from the play South Pacific in 12th grade. For years I was traveling across the state working with children for my Poet in Residence position. My motivation was to encourage children to write original poetry and recite original poetry. When I was reading my own poetry at adult poetry readings,  that fulfilled my need to connect with people. I always had a desire to perform again in a theater, but I didn’t have the time because of my travelling for the Poet in Residence program.  About six years ago, I said “It is now or never.” The only way to make this work is if I choose a character that I feel strongly about. So I did.

(MHC)What was challenging about beginning to perform as Emily Dickinson? 

(MZ)The first challenge was getting the facts right when the facts are over a century old. The second challenge is memorizing a script. Writing the script was easy and fun, to be honest.  The third challenge is overcoming the butterflies in my stomach in front of every new audience.

 (MHC)On your website it says you focus on Colonel Thomas Wentworth Higginson’s relationship with Dickinson, why? 

(MZ) She had a relationship through letters with him for 24 years of her life until she died at 56. Many facets of her personality are revealed in those letters, particularly her sharp wit, her expansive knowledge of current events and literature as well as art. There are so many reasons. She asked him to be a mentor to her, but she did not take his advice. And I believe what we know now is that she was breaking new ground and she knew it. Colonel Higginson was well travelled and well connected in the literary circles of Boston and other New England towns, so she could learn through him the current events. He was a Civil War colonel—he was also very interested in the arts—so he could give her updates in his letters. She looked forward to meeting him, but only met twice face-to-face in her home, and he gave a eulogy at her funeral. And a few years after she died, he co-edited her first book of poetry. It wasn’t until she died that he recognized that he had been writing to a genius for 24 years, but he hadn’t yet opened his mind to this new way of writing poetry.

 (MHC) What drew you to write poetry?

MiMi Zannino dressed as Emily Dickinson. Photo by Thomas Law

(MZ) I started writing poetry when I was 7 as a gift to my Sicilian great-grandmother and my family members. My poems were my gifts.  It felt good to express my emotions and my observations about people and about my environment. I am one of eight children. It was a way to quiet my mind, and to express myself. The emotion that I felt just naturally expressed itself in a poem. It was really a spontaneous act that I repeated over and over from early childhood. Some children sing, some tap dance, and I wrote poems.

(MHC) How has Dickinson influenced your own poetry?

(MZ) It hasn’t. What we have in common is a love of nature, and we both use natural images that work as a metaphor that symbolizes something deeper in human nature.  The other aspect of poetry that we have in common is the desire to explore the mysteries of life, particularly the mysteries surrounding complex human emotions.

 (MHC) Can you talk a bit about your own poetry, themes, what you’re trying to invoke, your books Red Curlers and Other Brown-Eyed Poems, In a Bed of Stones, and Home Remedy?

(MZ) My poems are a celebration of the real people and places in my life. It’s a way to preserve and to document the moment, whether the moment is people focused or whether the moment is nature focused or whether the moment is emotion focused.  In some ways those three collections mirror my heart, the history of my heart, and of the people and places that my heart came in contact with. Some poetry is academic poetry, my poetry is heart poetry.

(MHC) What is it like participating in a Chautauqua?

(MZ) Well this is my first time. I’ve been an audience member for years, and one of my goals while writing Time Travel With Dickinson was to perform for Chautauqua.

(MHC) Are you nervous?

(MZ) I’m more excited than nervous. I have been performing all around the state for 2 years, but I’m excited because Chautauqua is the perfect venue for Emily Dickinson.

(MHC) What are you looking forward to at this year’s Chautauqua?

(MZ) The challenge of the audience questions. They can be so much fun! They are a lot of fun to listen to as a member of the audience, so I know it is going to be a lot of fun to answer them as the presenter. I love the interaction of Chautauqua. That is what makes it a unique theater experience. People want to interact with performers, and Chautauqua gives people the opportunity to participate

Also joining Ms. Zannino is Kelley Rouse as Georgia O’Keeffe and Marian Licha as Frida Kahlo. Be sure to check out Kelley Rouse’s and Marian Licha’s Q&As that will be published soon and our Youtube page showing past Chautauqua events! We hope to see you at the Chautauqua! Be sure to check the schedule to see when and where one of these creative women will be performing.

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June 4th, 2014

Remembering D-Day on its 70th Anniversary

Operation Overlord was the largest seaborne invasion in history where 12,000 soldiers lost their lives in a single day—100,000 during the entire invasion. The operation is more commonly known as one word – D-Day. The military uses D-Day as a term to signify when combat operations will begin; however, we remember one day as the D-Day – June 6th, 1944.

As June 6th nears, let us stop to remember the soldiers who stormed the Western Front at near dawn while the full moon was setting; the soldiers who fought German forces while scrambling in sinking sand and beating waves, with bullets whizzing over them; and the soldiers who ended a massive Holocaust which killed millions of innocent Jews, Roma, Catholics, the disabled, and homosexuals.

This Friday marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day, and people will gather around the globe to remember those who lost their lives on that day, both Allied and German troops. Many Marylanders also gave their lives, but one branch of the military stands out in our state’s history.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower addresses American paratroopers prior to D-Day. June 5th, 1944. Source: wikipedia

Maryland’s 29th Infantry Division of the National Guard was among the first to storm Omaha Beach (now called “Bloody Omaha”), where many among their ranks lost their lives. The beach was the most heavily defended, with large steel barricades in the ocean and sand bars preventing boats from landing. All told,  27 tanks took water and sank. Marylanders should be especially proud of the 29th Infantry Division, who persevered in spite of many obstacles and were able to hold the beach.

It is stories like these that make D-Day such an important day to remember. It is a day that highlights one great quality of the American people – perseverance. Without the men who stormed that beach, the Western Front may have been unobtainable. If the beach had never been secured, the war would have been even more difficult to win. But thankfully, these are merely “if” thoughts, because the men who participated in D-Day gave our forces a foothold to push back the Germans and finally win the war.

Wondering about nearby D-Day events in which you can participate?

  • Visit the War Memorial Plaza between City Hall and the Baltimore War Memorial.
  • Watch the United States Airforce Band on Maryland Public Television (MPT) on Friday, June 6th, 9:30-10:00pm.
  • See rare footage shows and gripping interviews in HD on the History Channel on Friday, June 6th, 9:00-11:00pm.
  • But if you’re feeling like traveling, the largest D-Day remembrance in the country will be held at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, VA (about a 4 hour drive). Remembrance will be held at 11am on Friday, June 6th, but activities are planned for the entire weekend.

 

 

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April 14th, 2014

The 2014 Christine D. Sarbanes Teacher of the Year

Faith Majors, 8th grade English/Language Arts Teacher at Samuel Ogle Middle School in Bowie, Maryland received the 2014 Christine D. Sarbanes Award on April 12, 2014 at the Maryland Letters About Literature Awards Ceremony. She has graciously allowed us to reprint her acceptance speech:

Good Morning.
 
This award realizes one of my life’s ambitions—to be recognized as an outstanding teacher. It is with gratitude and a deep sense of humility that I accept this award.

Faith’s students congratulate their teacher.

I would like to thank the Maryland Humanities Council and the Sarbanes Family for this great honor and for promoting the importance of reading and writing at large. I would like to thank my family and friends for their continued love, support and encouragement.
 
I would also like to thank all of my colleagues from whom I’ve learned so much, who’ve mentored me and given me fellowship and guidance. It is truly appreciated and has helped me grow both personally and professionally. There are so many teachers who are equally deserving of this award for their commitment and tireless dedication to inspire our youth.
 
And of course I want to thank my students for their determination and commitment to improvement as they stand up to meet the challenges ahead. I realize that the hard work, loyalty and personal sacrifices of those previously mentioned have made this recognition possible. I consider this honor as one in a representative capacity to be shared with all of my colleagues.

 
The love of literature is something that I have always had. My mother tells how she would hear me cackling in the middle of the night as a young child in my crib. She would come in and there I would be a book in hand, dolls around me pretending to read. Lining up the dolls and teaching them, reading to them, making up my own story. So it was no surprise to my mother that I would grow up to be a teacher, besides, it is in my blood. My grandmother was also a teacher.
 
The fact that I can be a part of instilling this love of literature, this love of words, in our youth is awe-inspiring. If I can get a student to enjoy a book, I’ve gotten them to enjoy reading, if I can get them to enjoy reading, I’ve helped to create a reader. If I’ve created a reader, I’ve helped to create a thinker which is a benefit to this world.
 
My hope is that these thinkers, writers, readers, the next generation, can continue to add to the voices of our diverse literary tradition. My hope is that they continue to read, continue to write, continue to let their voices be heard and make an impact on our world.
 
As a final thought, I would like to leave you with a quote: “When a reader enters the pages of a book…he or she enters a world where dreams transform the past into knowledge made applicable to the present, and where visions shape the present into extraordinary possibilities for the future.” – Aberjhani, Collected Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black.

I hope your dreams and futures are extraordinary. Thank you.

Faith Majors is a National Board Certified Teacher who brings enthusiasm, structure, and creativity to her classroom. She focuses on the whole child when she teachers, going the extra mile to find books and materials that will interest even the most reluctant reader. Her hard work, and that of her students, has helped to increase her special education students’ measured reading level during their time with her each year. Read more about Faith

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March 10th, 2014

Better Living through the Humanities

Occasionally we re-post the transcripts from archive episodes of Humanities Connection, MHC’s weekly segment on WYPR, your NPR Station. To continue the dialogue spurred by the 2013 “Heart of the Matter” bipartisan report, we asked Dr. Jim Salvucci, Dean of The School of Humanities & Social Sciences at Stevenson University, to offer his reflection of how the humanities bring meaning to our lives.

Imagine a world devoid of the humanities. Many Americans–though few public radio listeners–would shrug at the prospect, indifferent to or doubtful of the humanities’ benefits. But in this hypothetical dystopia without philosophy and religion, most values would be evaluated according to value–price or profit. Religious faith, for instance, would become a cost-benefit analysis–say, a balance between the price of certain earthly choices and the prospect of eternal bliss–rather than an appreciation of the inherent good in certain choices or, for some, in faith itself. In this dystopia, art would be a rote thing, depictions devoid of the artists’ humanity and its complexity. Beauty itself would be measurable by tools, such as calipers or a spectrometer. Your smart phone would still have a calculator app, yes, but no YouTube.

Take the fundamental feature of all human cultures: the story. One would be hard pressed to find a person who did not appreciate a good story, but without the humanities, stories would be bland recitations of known facts without the understanding, however confounding it be, that our perceptions shape the facts we observe. We tell stories not just to relate facts but–more importantly–to convey meaning.

After all, social scientists and humanists can agree that the human mind is a meaning-making machine. We find meaning even in the mundane. But, while psychologists can discover the mechanism for that drive toward meaning, it takes the humanities to recognize and even appreciate the raw power and myriad implications of the compulsion. The drive toward meaning is at the heart of the humanities: religion, philosophy, languages, classics, and the rest. In short, many disciplines of study can identify how we make meaning and even why, and those questions and their answers are vitally important. The humanities, though, are supremely, maybe uniquely, positioned to answer a fundamentally human question: “so what?”

That “so what?” is a driving force perhaps more powerful even than compound interest. It expresses an inquisitiveness that challenges facile assumptions and relentlessly focuses on the future. There is, then, an inherent optimism to answering “so what?” an irresistible searching that redirects the human condition away from apathy and despair.

When I was still in graduate school for English, an acquaintance who was in a residency as an emergency physician, was boasting how she saved lives every day. She wanted to know what good people like me did in the world. With due respect for her noble work, I pointed out that people like me make those lives she saves worth saving to begin with, that human life bereft of humanity is bereft of meaning and purpose. It is existence, to be sure, but so what?

Yes, we can live, but the humanities help us live better.

Tell us what you think!  Comment below and tell us what role the humanities and liberal arts education have had in your life.  You can also share your views on the MHC Facebook page.

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January 10th, 2014

Top Ten Picks: 2014 One Maryland One Book

Each year thousands of readers from across Maryland take part in One Maryland One Book, the state’s largest reading and discussion program.  Out of over one hundred entries submitted by the public, the One Maryland One Book Selection Committee has narrowed the list of choices for the 2014 One Maryland One Book reading and discussion program down to ten books. Now in its seventh year, this year’s theme is ‘the American Dream.”

Have you read any of these selections? Do you have a favorite book that made the list?  Tell us below what you think!

2014 Top Ten Selections:

We expect to announce what thousands of Marylanders will read in the fall in February, so stay tuned!

 

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December 23rd, 2013

Wow What a Year: 2013

As we look ahead to the new year, bid farewell to the old, we thought it appropriate to reflect the wealth of humanities programs in 2013.  Hundreds of thousands of Marylanders—more than half a million in fact—participated in MHC programs this year, reinforcing the love of literature, history, scholarship, civic reflection, and more.  We hope you enjoy this brief video looking back at some of these programs.

We could not continue our success without the support of partners, sponsors, and supporters from around the state and are grateful for their contribution. If you have yet to do so, please consider making an end-of-year, tax-deductible donation to MHC and help us to continue support and to bring quality humanities programs to the public in 2014.

 

What MHC or grant-sponsored program did you enjoy in 2013?  Tell us, either by commenting below or posting to our Facebook page

Happy New Year from the Maryland Humanities Council!

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December 6th, 2013

Homeschool History Day: Building Community

I love National History Day because it inspires students to reach levels beyond my wildest imagination.

I mentor a group of homeschooled students who are working on National History Day projects.  We meet weekly at our local public library.  The students work on their research, and I wander around, answer questions, and provide guidance and encouragement when needed.  I have had students study everything from the war of independence in Cyprus to the big bang theory, and we have had some amazing experiences together.

I worked with a group of students who put on white cotton gloves and went through folders of old newspaper articles and photos at the local historical society.  I took a ninth grader to the George Peabody Library where he was able to read a book published in 1758.  My students have visited the National Museum of Civil War Medicine and the National Postal Museum, the Food and Drug Administration and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.  They have interviewed two Nobel Prize winning physicists and a Pulitzer Prize winning historian.  Museum archivists have sent them rare photos and unpublished primary sources, and have offered insight and direction.

National History Day also helps students connect with the community.  One year, I had a group of middle school girls who studied the desegregation of our local schools.  They interviewed three women who were among the first black students to attend white schools in our county.  One of these ladies came to the district competition.  When she looked at the exhibit, her eyes filled with tears.  She hugged the girls and thanked them for taking the time to hear her story.

Listen to Christine Pritt read her essay on WYPR’s Humanities Connection.

Students also develop vital skills that they will need throughout their lives.  They learn to tackle a difficult project, to persevere and to keep plodding on when the work seems overwhelming.  And they learn that the satisfaction of a job well done makes it worth all the effort that went into it. They learn to work with others who have different strengths and weaknesses.

They learn to communicate clearly and to compromise when necessary, to take criticism gracefully and to give advice gently.   They face the nervousness of standing before the judges, and they come away with new found confidence and eloquence. I have watched an extremely shy student come out of her shell and beam with excitement as she answered judges’ questions about her documentary on the Pony Express.  I have cheered when a seventh-grader who could only sit still for a couple of minutes at a time won first place in the state for his website on the Chinese invasion of Tibet.
Year after year, my National History Day students amaze me.  I expect a lot from them, and they always go far beyond what I can imagine.

 

Christine Pritt was named the 2013 Patricia Behring Middle School History Day Teacher of the Year in Maryland. The Maryland History Day Competition, coordinated in our state by the Maryland Humanities Council, is much more than one day—each student spends on average more than 70 hours envisioning, researching, and fine-tuning a research project  based upon an annual theme. More than 19,000 public, private, parochial, and homeschool students enter from all corners of our state.  Photo:  Christine receives her award from Maryland Senate President Mike V. Miller, Jr. at the 2013 State Competition. Photo by Mitro Hood.

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