March 27, 2023
The Changing Chesapeake – an exhibit on climate change and the Chesapeake community
Posted by Laura Guertin
What happens when a call is put out to a community to explore the intersections of climate change and a geographic region, and to share their views and reflections via art? You end up with an amazing collection of works generated through voices, hands, and hearts.
Last year, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) put out a call for artists to submit pieces for an upcoming exhibit that address the following:
- how climate change and the impact of humans on the environment shapes their Chesapeake community;
- how the way you identify with and are inspired by the Chesapeake has evolved;
- what you would want someone 100 years from now to know about life and community traditions in the Chesapeake; and
- your vision for the future of life in the region.
This first-ever community-response exhibition for CBMM yielded over 150 submissions of items that were painted, sculpted, embroidered, written, composed, photographed, quilted, and more. The result is more than 75 works selected for display in a juried exhibit titled The Changing Chesapeake.
You can view some of the pieces in this CBMM news release and exhibit page. Two journalists at the opening share additional details and images about the exhibit in the Star-Democrat and the Talbot Spy. If you are able to travel to this exhibit, I highly encourage you to check it out as well as the other amazing pieces of maritime history at this museum.
The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is located in St. Michaels, Maryland, USA. The museum is ~1.5 hour drive from Baltimore, MD, and just over two hours away from Philadelphia, PA. Learn more about the museum at: https://cbmm.org/
The Changing Chesapeake will be on exhibition March 1, 2023, through Feb. 25, 2024 and is supported by CBMM’s Regional Folklife Center under the Maryland Traditions program of the Maryland State Arts Council.
My exhibit story
Since 2018, I started creating science-themed quilts as a way to tell science stories and engage with even broader audiences at outreach events and online. Right at the time I saw the call for The Changing Chesapeake exhibit, I had just finished my first-ever quilt-crochet mash-up titled Looking out at the ghosts of the coast. Knowing that ghost forests are part of the climate story in the Chesapeake Bay region, I decided to submit a photo and description of this quilt for consideration. Here is a short video that captures photos and my story that goes with the quilt.
This is the first time I have ever submitted any of my quilts for consideration for an exhibit. Call it impostor syndrome, but I never feel that my quilts belong on the same walls as other pieces of art. My motivation for quilting is storytelling, so I use wide panel of fabrics so the patterns come through. I don’t have the intricate details with cutting and stitching that I see in so many other quilts on display. But since my goal for science quilting is to get these science stories out to a wider audience for conversations and education, I decided it was worth trying.
I’m so glad I did! I can’t tell you how elated I was to receive the email notification that my quilt was selected!
The next step was to get the quilt to the museum. There were several days and times to sign up and meet someone on-site to deliver the selected exhibit pieces. Initially, the available times were just in the month of December (which is AGU, end of semester…). But there was fortunately a day after I returned from AGU I could get down to the museum. It is just over a two-hour drive from Philadelphia – in good weather. It was a rainy/icy storm that day, but my husband and I made the drive down and stayed overnight after we did the drop off.
I’ve only had my quilts on display at one other location for a few months. It was hard to leave my quilts behind and leave that facility, even though I knew the quilts were in good hands. This was no different and is still a new experience for me – struggling to let go of my pieces for an extended time! But the CBMM staff were so friendly and appreciate to receive the piece, I felt much better.
Then came the opening where the artists (still not a title I’m using) were available during a reception for CBMM members. My husband joined me again and we drove down for the Thursday evening opening. When we first walked in to the Steamboat Building gallery and were checking in, my husband tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to my left. There, at the opening of the exhibit, was my quilt hanging right in front! I immediately had tears in my eyes, not just because my quilt was hanging in an exhibit, but because it was right at the front. One of the CMBB volunteers immediately gave me a hug (which I so appreciated!). Another of the staff came by and said my quilt was selected for that spot because it represented not just ghost forests but a window into the exhibit and had depth with the crocheted curtains attached. It was such a fun evening speaking to visitors, the other artists, and newspaper reporters about my work, about climate change – and importantly, what actions we can take to address our changing climate.
My quilt is away from me for a year, but I’m thrilled that museum visitors will be able to see and read about my piece. Maybe it will get others to think about and act more on climate change. Maybe it will encourage others to quilt and crochet their own science stories. It is such an honor to be a part of this group of talented artists and this amazing collection. And maybe my confidence will grow and I’ll continue to connect with such warm and welcoming communities such as the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum!