Contributing Author “In their Own Words”

We are very pleased to announce Sue Batton Leonard is a contributing author to this newly-released book. “Coming to a Place within My Heart” is the title of the chapter she contributed to this book which was published by the Historical Society of Harford County (Maryland). The story is about a beautiful, historic landmark in Bel Air, the Liriodendron Mansion, which she chose to write about because the history of the landmark has relevance to her award-winning memoir Gift of a Lifetime: Finding Fulfilling Things in the Unexpected.

2020 Eric Hoffer Award Finalist

Highlight of 2020.

Author:  Sue Batton Leonard

All Things Fulfilling

We are pleased to announce a biography about Richard Galusha called “An Artist’s Journey,” written by Sue Batton Leonard is a 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award Finalist. The narrative tells the story of the unique influences that drove  Galusha’s passion for the arts from childhood to amateur artist to arts educator to professional artist to gallery owner.

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Featured Artist: Janice Kirsh

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Photo: Best in Show – Janice Kirsh. Paint Annapolis “Charles Carroll Overlook” – 1st place awarded by the Mid-Atlantic Plein Air Painters Association and the Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts (2011)

My travels last week took me to Howard County, Maryland to see an exhibit at the Columbia Art Center. The artist lives just a hop, skip and a jump away over two county lines. I’ll refrain from using the term “local artist” because in some individual’s minds, the term connotes an amateur artist which is far from the truth when it comes to Janice Kirsh’s talent.

Janice’s art education started with the Maryland Institute of Art and then onto the Shuler School of Fine Arts where she studied the techniques and methodology of the Old World Masters. With time, she found her own style. Her strong foundational skills are evident. She’s continued studying with some of the best of the best and has been taught by master artists such as Quang Ho, Scott Christiansen, David Leffel, Sherrie McGraw and other top-notch painters who are also known for their top-notch teaching workshops.

Chasing the Hibiscus 14″ x 18″

Although she does some studio work, Janice’s love for plein air painting often finds her in gardens and outdoors settings. Her paintings are well-executed because she is skilled at bringing different light and atmospheric variables to the canvas. For collectors who have an appreciation of the difficulty that it takes to get it right, they will fully appreciate what they see. Particularly telling is her only coastal/seascape painting in her current exhibit. The horses with people riding on the beach is only one of many of her exceptional oils. To my eyes, in “Morning Ride” the artist brings a bit of an “old world quality” to the canvas.

“Morning Ride,” Cannon Beach, Oregon, Janice Kirsh

Janice’s self-assuredness as an artist is seen through her paintings, and her canvases are a testimony to her versatility as an artist. Her confidence, in part, comes from painting many locations – from Dublin, Ireland to Port Clyde, Maine to the coast of Oregon to the Adirondacks. Some landscapes were painted closer to her home such as at National Mall in, D.C. to locales in Virginia, Baltimore and Ellicott City. Every stroke of the brush seems deliberately placed for a specific reason yet, there is still a marvelous looseness to her work. I so enjoyed conversing with her about some of those purposely put dabs of paint and we discussed each and every painting in her Columbia Art Center exhibit.

Warm Winter Light 20″ X 16″, Janice Kirsh

“Landscapes Near and Far” at the Columbia Art Center will be on display until June 3, 2023, so there is still time to see the show. It’s always fun to discover high-quality artists whose work you are unfamiliar with. A few of the posted images are of canvases which are in her Columbia Art Center Exhibit.

Font Hills Habitat, 10″ x 16″ Janice Kirsh

Baltimore “Flower Mart” Janice Kirsh

Eastport Annapolis 12″ X 18″ Janice Kirsh

When you look at Janice Kirsh’s long list of invitational exhibits, awards and juried shows she’s been included in, she’s obviously valued as an artist. She has been featured in a book “100 Plein Air Painters of the Mid Atlantic.” If you are not close enough to see the show in Columbia, MD check out her website to learn more about the artist, Janice Kirsh, and to see many more images of her fabulous paintings.

This article was written by award-winning author, Sue Batton Leonard.

Janice Kirsh, artist at work

Mid-Century Musical Theatre

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 Julie Kurzava who holds a Masters Degree in Voice and Opera from Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University held a three-part lecture series in Bel Air, MD.  A woman of many talents, she is a singer, actor, voice teacher, lecturer and teaching artist. She is also Founder and Director of New Moon Theatre Company. She shares her love for musical theatre through many platforms!

The attendees were given insight into three of the most beloved mid-century musicals ever written – the King and I, My Fair Lady and Music Man. Much of the information Julie related only an individual who is well-studied in this genre of performance art would know because she’s so well-researched the subject. Her background information on the songwriters and anecdotal stories of having performed some of these roles, live on stage, added a personal touch to the lecture as did her small lilts of the show tunes in her own, gorgeous well-trained voice.

We explored the difference between mid-century musical theatre and the shows that are on Broadway in this day and age. What has kept the mid-century musicals on stages, regionally and in communities, over the ages when their runs on Broadway were so short compared to Broadway hits of today? She informed us of some of those reasons. As she pointed out “when the dialogue from songwriters become cliché, you know the lyricist has arrived!” Yes! Lerner & Lowe, Meredith Willson and Rodgers and Hammerstein have left their mark on theatre stages everywhere for many decades.

At the end of the third lecture, Julie asked if anyone had any comments. One of the attendees said, “Musicals make you think you can sing!”  If you are one who grew up in the golden age of musical theatre, consider how many times you may have sung in your head or aloud “Pick-A-Little, Talk a Little,”  “Shall We Dance“, “To Dream the Impossible Dream” or “Wouldn’t it Be Loverly?” 

Thanks to the support of the Bel Air Arts & Entertainment District and the Maryland State Arts Council we were fortunate to have this very worthwhile lecture series brought to our town. I do hope Julie can return and speak about some of the other most beloved musicals from the same era.


Part 2 – Yearning Fulfilled

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Welcome back to Part 2 of a post about the 2023 Artists in Residence at Ladew Topiary Gardens. If you missed part 1, I’d encourage you to visit the article.

Every year it’s’ interesting to see which artists have been chosen to be featured at Ladew. Along with Quang Ho and Adrienne Stein, Sam Christian Holmes is the third artist for this year. His medium of work  in this exhibition are large installations, which he calls “totems.” They are especially visible at this time of year in the wildflower field. As the growing season progresses, and as the closely cropped field begins to prosper with new greenery and blooms, the totems will be seen a little differently later in the season than how they now appear in the landscape.

The artist encourages all who see his sculptures made from metal accented with what looks like oversized-looking beads of assorted color and shapes, to stop and have a conversation with oneself. How do the shapes, colors, cylinders, ellipses seen in the meadow serve as beacons to the cosmos and the spiritual rhythms of ourselves and the Universe?

I encourage you to visit Sam Christian Holmes website where you can learn more about his vision for his art, the various mediums he works with and where he has taught in the community and at institutions of higher learning.


In the Art Barn of Ladew Gardens, there are more paintings from Quang Ho and Adrienne Stein, along with some works of other artists such as Michael Bare, Palden Hamilton, Sam Robinson and Joanne Bare. Do check them out when you visit the gardens of Harvey S Ladew which are said to be one of the “10 incredible topiary gardens around the world.”

Yearnings Fulfilled

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Not only was it Coronation Day for the King of England and the winner of the Kentucky Derby, it was a splendid day all around. The annual crowning event which Ladew Topiary Gardens in Monkton, Maryland is known for, was as wonderful as ever. Not only was I interested in browsing the vendor booths which had all the makings for “proper” English gardens such as statuary, wrought iron garden accents, herb topiaries, planters and pots and birdhouses and more, I was excited to meet with the 2023 Artists in Residence. A husband and wife highly thought of in the world of elite artists who work primarily in oils.

About thirteen years ago, I’d met Quang Ho and saw his painting demonstration in Colorado, thanks to Richard Galusha and Shirley Stocks of Wild Horse Gallery. But I’d yet to meet Quang’s wife, Adrienne Stein, and had always yearned to do so.

Quang tweaks the floral arrangement to make it a bit more picture-worthy from the angle he was painting from.

Adrienne chose a colorful border garden close to where Quang was painting so on-lookers could easily walk back and forth between the two demonstrations.

For several hours, I watched the two paint. It was interesting to see the very different processes and artistic styles the two had, starting with the blank canvases until nearly the end. Each amply and equally as talented. Quang’s florals are painted with a softer, spare touch, leaning toward a more classical style. Where as Adrienne’s style is more heavy handed, as seen in her large- scale paintings which are often floral paired with bold femininity figurative. They are densely saturated with color, often described as mystical in nature. Their paintings will be exhibited throughout the year at Ladew’s Barn Gallery.

Artists in Residence, Adrienne Stein and Quang Ho will be returning many times as there is never a shortage of things the two will enjoy painting. Evergreen topiaries, twigs, bushes and berries, abandoned birds nests, seed pods, or dried withered leaves and drooped flowers coated with hoarfrost are paint-worthy too. The two, well-tuned into painting outside the studio walls, will find lots of interesting things for their canvases at Ladew during the non-gardening months also.

A third artist in resident at Ladew Topiary Gardens for 2023 whose large installations are located in the wildflower field, will be featured on on May 12th.. Do return!

But, before you go, enjoy a few photos from the Ladew Topiary Gardens signature event which happens early in May every year.

Natural Energy

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A family home, built in 1898 by Dr. Howard Atwood Kelly, was the venue of a special evening last week. I, and perhaps others, would consider the man who owned and built the home to be a “pioneering medical intuitive.” The gathering was all about art and connection bringing the energy of creatives, of all mediums together. Visual artists, literary artists, floral artists as well as performing artists were present and were among those who believe in the power of art to inspire, motivate, heal and illuminate our lives. People who understand and embrace the concept are especially well-tuned into improving the wellness of communities.

Medical practitioners are beginning to fully understand some of the ideas Dr. Kelly presented in his writings, published more than 100 years ago, about the connection between nature and health and happiness of the mind, body, spirit. Our own creativity, given to everyone by a “higher being” is another holistic, life-affirming force. If we are open to this concept we can improve our moods, lift our spirits and help ourselves by alleviating stressors detrimental to our health by being one with nature and using our creative energy.

Today, I’d simply like to thank the Bel Art Arts and Entertainment District as well as other sponsoring organizations such as the Maryland State Arts Council and the Harford Artists Association and the Town of Bel Air and Harford County Cultural Arts Board for providing the opportunity for creatives to come together for the common purpose of “art and heart.” It was a wonderful evening at the Liriodendron Mansion.

Swaying and Sultry on Palm Sunday Afternoon

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A band whose privilege has been to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. came to perform at the last concert of the winter/spring series at “Music at the Mansion” in Bel Air, Maryland. Seth Kibel, an accomplished woodwind musician and his band have won 28 Washington Area Music awards and deservedly so! Vocalist Flo Anito’s voice is beautifully suited to the genre of music – swing and jazz. Several 1920’s era tunes were played with instrumentals by Kibel on the clarinet, saxophone and flute. Michael Raitcyk accompanied on the guitar, Bob Abbott on double bass and Wes Crawford on the drums.

Here are just some of the recognizable favorites – I Take You with Anything But Love, Blue Skies, Bye-Bye Blackbird and Dance with Me. The artists drew selections from The Great American Songbook such as Dream a Little Dream. A song made famous in the Big Band era by Ann Renelle called Willow Weep for Me were in the mix.

An element of the unexpected were in a few Yiddish classics, one which was sung long ago by the Andrews Sisters. Seth Kibel and his band also included fast-paced European Folk Music often played at weddings, as well as a Brazilian bossa nova.

Of course, Billie Holiday an American jazz and swing music singer, raised in Baltimore, was not left out. Her slow, dreamy composition “God Bless the Child” came at the end of the concert.

What an enjoyable Palm Sunday afternoon it was at the Liriodendron Mansion. Keep your eye on the Liriodendron website for a great line up of performers coming this summer. “Music at the Mansion is made possible in part by a grant from Maryland State Arts Council through Harford County Cultural Arts Board, by Harford County, by Music Land, and by supporters like you!

Spiritual Immersion

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For a brief few hours, I was immersed into a musical culture quite foreign to me. I attended a concert by a Indian sitar star, Alif Laila. Alif born in Dahka, Bangladesh came to the United States in 1981. Her career has taken her to prestigious venues including UNESCO World Heritage sites. Accompanied by Suryahshah Deshpande playing the tabla, which is something like a two-headed bongo drum, and Meem Haque who played a drone instrument called the tanpura. Each beautifully complemented the resonating sounds of the sitar. The tabla musician is a grade A artist, who has been well-endorsed by the Department of Culture in the Indian Government. Meem Haque is one of Alif’s leading students.

The Liriodendron Mansion in Bel Air, Maryland where the concert was held is proving to be an arts venue attracting very high quality musicians both of national and international acclaim.

Quickly I learned in the first opening composition why sitar music is very spiritual. The sixteen beat rhythmic pattern was trance-like but the beat matched the mood as it was peaceful and pensive.The second Alaap was mixed tempo going from medium to fast to a very quick, almost urgent to my way of thinking, finale. It was energetic and celebratory-like the arrival of a long-awaited spring (or basant.)

“Pahadi,” meaning from the mountains, came the third composition. This light classical composition originated in the Himalayas. Although light, it was complex mix of sounds, which Alif compared to different colored pigments mixing with water. A visual artist as well, her medium of choice is watercolors.

As the musicians wrapped up the concert, Alif stated she was saturated with devotion to those who enjoy her music and attend her concerts and she was going to “dance with that. Why not?” she asked.

Just as interesting as the music was, I was struck by Alif’s expressions while playing and there was no doubt in my mind, she was deeply engaged, heart and soul, with the music. At times she appeared to be in a trance-like state, at other times, you could see the joyfulness and playfulness on her facial countenance.

Do visit Alif Laila’s website. Her musical accomplishments and venues where she has performed is impressive. Her mission is to keep this ancient form of music alive by teaching her students at a music school she founded in Washington, DC.

It was another enjoyable musical evening at The Liriodendron Mansion. The sponsors – the Maryland State Arts Council, Harford County Cultural Arts Board, a grant from Harford County and contributions from Music Land made the evening possible.

Cultural diversity in all art forms is good and art enriches our inner world in so many ways. Do return to our next post, which will be brought to you from the same venue. Music from the Mansion on the Sunday afternoon of Palm Sunday was as invigorating in nature as the surroundings of the venue.

Shaping a Future


The sun has one kind of glory, while the moon and stars each have another kind. And even the stars differ from each other in their glory.” ~ Corinthians 15:41

One of the pleasures of being an author is the encounters and conversations I have with other book enthusiasts and other authors. I recently participated in an Author Showcase at Perry Hall branch of Baltimore County Library. A nine year old boy, a fourth grader, approached my display with his Dad. I asked him if he’d come to the library just to see the author showcase. “No,” he said, “I came to get a book” and he held out the book he had checked out for loan. It was age appropriately written for youth about Copernicus. The conversation so quickly led to his interests which included astronomy, engineering, science, math. He was without doubt a child wise and learned beyond his years. But the most beautiful thing was how evident it was from our conversation that his Dad was very quietly and thoughtfully introducing his son, who had a very bright mind, to a multitude of experiences which will foster and support his development. I knew after visiting with this young boy, he will probably be among the stars in his generation. I did not take his photo or get his name, instead, I just enjoyed our conversation.

As serendipity would have it, the next day when I attended Sunday service at Bel Air United Methodist Church, there was a guest singer, named Ian who played the piano and sang the lyrics of Stars from the Broadway musical Les Mis. Ian’s voice was magnificent and the images of the Universe, captured by the Webb telescope, projected on a big screen were astonishing.

This has left me pondering, how many stars of God’s creation are there out in the Universe that no one yet even knows about? Someday we might see their bright light in unexpected ways we hadn’t even considered.

Progress with Integrity

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Last week I returned to a place where there has been a progression of restoration changes over the past few years. The family who settled in the historic village of Jerusalem Mill in 1771, the Lee’s, would see that the preservation has been done with utmost integrity while upholding all the other Quaker principles and inner convictions they lived by. I am sure for the Friends of Jerusalem Village, who govern the living history museum, there is a lot of grappling with change while staying faithful to values of simplicity and stewardship. To keep the doors open as a living history museum, some change is necessary in order to provide it’s visitors a great experience.

The purpose of my most recent visit was to catch-up on the Lee Mansion, and the extensive work being done on the structure which houses the Lee Gallery. Rebecca Weber, the Director, met me at the door with her corgi. Rebecca, an artist, is ever mindful of preserving the past as she looks out the gallery windows every day and sees the eighteenth-century village structures. Her personal art studio has in it collections of artifacts of vestige – ephemeral things collected in her travels which are unique, rare or disappearing. Rebecca Weber explained how she curated the current exhibition and the placement of the art. In her explanation, it was clear that she cares deeply about the art she will be seeking for future shows and how it important it is to chose just the right art for this historical village’s mission “to keep alive the heritage and traditions that form common bonds and deepest roots.”

The exhibit currently hanging in the Lee Gallery is the art of Ephraim Rubenstein. Words about his illustrious career are so many it is best read on his website to get a full-picture of who he is as an artist and his impressive accomplishments. So today, I’d like to share a bit of his art through images. These paintings are exhibited at the Lee Gallery.

Ephraim Rubenstein’s “Bread” collection, which are pastel paintings on sanded board, are perfect fits for this living history museum because the grist mill fed all the village people back in the 1700s. These paintings are only a few of the exhibit, and the art is best appreciated first hand. As you will see from the text below the pictures, there is a brand new reason to visit.

Ephraim Rubenstein from his “Bread” Collection

Artist – Ephraim Rubenstein from his “Bread” Collection

Artist: Ephraim Rubenstein from his “Bread” Collection

If you would like to know more about Jerusalem Mill, you can go to a past post Time Well Spent here. Information about the museum’s history and events is also available on the Museum website. Jerusalem Mill was recently awarded a Best of Harford County Museum designation. It is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Thank you to Rebecca Weber for your graciousness in allowing me sit and absorb the art around me and leaf through the wealth of magazine articles and other media information about the artist, Ephraim Rubenstein. His work stylistically resembles many of the old world masters paintings which I favor.