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a fresh new VIBE

Talbot Arts in movin' and shakin'!

By Tracey F. Johns

With the goal of celebrating the rich diversity in the local arts community, the Talbot County Arts Council has adopted a new name — Talbot Arts — along with a new logo and website designed to better represent what it helps to bring to the county’s artists and audiences, according to organization officials.

Launched in April, the new name and website, which features lively color photographs of local artists, were strategic choices to emphasize that Talbot Arts supports a local arts community that broadly spans all ages, communities, and creative mediums, according to Executive Director Joan Levy. Throughout “Talbot Arts” new branding are stunning artistic examples of simple and complex compositions and frames that invite audiences to seek more and learn more.

“We need a brand that inspires, and the community needs to get to know who we are, and what we are about,” Levy says of the decision that she and the group’s board of directors made to rebrand the group. “The board made a wise investment in supporting our new brand, which has been received with overwhelmingly positive feedback.”

Levy says the board of directors represents all aspects of the arts and various geographical areas of Talbot County. Each member brings a strong commitment to improving equitable access, diversity and inclusion in the arts for all Talbot County residents.

Talbot Arts provides funding for art programming and distributes funds provided by the Maryland State Arts Council, Talbot County, local foundations and the towns of Easton, Oxford and St. Michaels to area nonprofit and government-related organizations for arts programs and projects.

“Talbot Arts especially wants to expose our children and young adults to art because we feel we have more of an opportunity to influence what role art plays in their lives now and in the future,” Levy says. “Reaching young people helps to keep programming relevant to today’s audiences.”

Talbot Arts relied on a local team of artists to create its new look. The backdrop for the artists’ portraits on its website, for example, features vignettes from a large mural painted by Easton’s Play in Color basketball court artist Shelton Hawkins. Kate Livie and her Alosa Communications team took charge of overhauling the branding along with Levy and the board, while local photographer and videographer Caroline J. Phillips captured new imagery that resonates with today’s audiences.

Levy became executive director of the Talbot County Arts Council in August 2019 when Gerry Early retired after serving 20 years in the role. She grew up in Catonsville and lived in the Baltimore area while pursuing a marketing and communications career at Johns Hopkins Medicine before moving to Oxford with her husband and three dogs in 2014. She worked on the 2016 exhibition of artist Ruth Starr Rose’s work with Dock Street Foundation in Easton before taking the arts council job out of a strong desire to join an organization to affect change.

“This organization is small enough that you can make changes efficiently and effectively. Here we were able to transition the idea of rebranding to a re-launch in less than one year. That’s the beauty of working with a small organization, and within a tight-knit community that’s home to some incredibly talented people,” Levy says. “Gerry is a wonderful, kind, generous mentor, and I’m still learning. He and our board members have created an incredible foundation for Talbot Arts to now take on this new branding to support our thriving arts community.”

The rebranding opportunity coincided with the Maryland State Arts Council’s redirection to embrace more diversity and inclusion in its funding and impact. “This new logo and name reflect the ways Talbot Arts is looking to the future. As our arts communities change and grow, we need to reflect that, and provide the tools and resources necessary to create a rich arts environment for our county,” Levy says.

More than $2 million in grants have been awarded since 1987, with the largest annual funding achieved this past year when Talbot Arts provided $110,000 to 24 diverse, inclusive and accessible programs for county residents.

Talbot Arts is also stretching its outreach by increasing partnerships with organizations and programs whose missions are tightly connected to its own. The group recently teamed up with the Cherry Tree Young Writers’ Conference and Washington College to provide scholarships to Talbot County high school students, with each student eligible to receive a $1,000 Engagement Credit to help pay for the first year of college tuition.

Levy says in the past, students were required to provide 50% of the funding for tuition to receive the scholarships, which had been a barrier for some families who could not pay.

“Now, we’ve eliminated that barrier by offering full-tuition scholarships, so that we can expand the pool of art candidates who can apply for funding,” she adds.

Talbot Arts provides three other areas of funding opportunities in addition to its summer arts scholarships, including mini-grants, Community Arts Development grants, and Arts and Education grants. The grants are awarded based on how well applicants, such as schools, arts organizations and start-ups, meet certain criteria.

“Our Community Arts Development grants help fund programs at large organizations, spanning in size from the Avalon Theatre to the Bay Country Chorus, for example,” Levy says. “Our Arts and Education grants go directly to schools to help bring in artists to directly work with children or do performances for arts enrichment for the schools, both public and private. And our mini-grants are used for pilot programs and new ideas.”

“Art is integral and essential for a healthy, vibrant, and equitable community,” she says. “Talbot Arts has a particular interest in supporting the underserved, including people in healthcare settings, seniors, racial and ethnic minority groups, the economically disadvantaged, and those with special needs.”

Every three years, the Maryland State Arts Council requires all county arts organizations to undergo a rigorous planning process to make sure they understand and address their communities’ future wants and needs. Using surveys, focus groups and in-person interviews, Talbot Arts plans to reach out to its community to determine the best way to develop and shape programs and award grants to serve all.

Our vision is that every person in Talbot County will feel connected to a sense of place through art.
—Joan Levy

“Local art connects us in a way that nothing else does,” Levy says. “Our vision is that every person in Talbot County will feel connected to a sense of place through art. Art connects us through beauty, thoughtfulness, a sense of community and identity. You identify with it because this is your place. Most people long for feeling connected to a place, and that’s even more evident in today’s world.”

Talbot Arts funding is available to organizations serving county residents and guests that are designated as a Maryland nonprofit corporation with IRS tax-exempt status, or government-related entities such as a school or a parks and recreation department, according to the organization. Grants must be matched on at least a one-for-one basis in cash. All activities supported by Talbot Arts grants must be open to the public and accessible to persons with disabilities in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. For more information, check out talbotarts.org.

Clockwise from top left: Joan Levy, executive director of Talbot Arts; a Tilghman Area Youth Association art class; The scholarship winner 2020 and 2021 from Sts. Peter and Paul High School is Elizabeth Snapp holding a self-portrait; Allegro Academy singers' performance; Front row: Peggy Ford and Victoria Gomez Lozano of Chesapeake Multicultural Resource Center. Middle row: Janet Adams, Joan Levy, Amy Steward, Patrick Rogan.

Back row: Carl Tankersley, Bill Peak, Josepha Price of Cultural Crossings and Mary Ann Schindler; and St. Michaels Art League Show and Sale on Labor Day weekend.

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