Painter Debra Howard has lived in many places and traveled throughout the world. But she says the most unique place she has ever lived is Tangier Island.
“I have traveled all through Europe. I’ve sailed from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland, through the Panama Canal, in the Caribbean, the Bahamas, up the entire East Coast to Canada. By far, Tangier was the most foreign and odd place I have ever lived,” Howard said.
Howard will discuss her time as artist in residence on Tangier Island on Tuesday, May 10 from 6-7:30 p.m.at the Ocean City Center for the Arts on 94th St. The event is free and open to the public, and reservations are not required.
Howard grew up in Miami and studied at the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota. Now a resident of Crisfield, she is an award winning plein-air artist whose work reflects the subtle rhythms and beauty of the Chesapeake Bay area.
Tangier — an island that is gradually washing away with rising sea levels, losing nearly nine acres a year — is a culture all to itself. The 450 islanders speak a strong Cornish dialect. The island is dotted with dozens of abandoned homes and is virtually treeless, a result of the British using the wood to build a fort during the War of 1812. And when Tangier islanders have parties or gatherings, the opposite sexes don’t mix.
“The women do their thing; the men do theirs,” Howard said. “I attended many dances with just women. We’d get together at the school cafeteria.”
Outsiders are looked upon with suspicion, as the artist-in-residence experienced first hand.
“The only grocery store is stocked on Thursday morning, and is jammed with islanders trying to get fresh food,” Howard recalled. “Even after two-and-a half years there, when I’d come in to shop, everyone would quit speaking.”
She had only been the artist in residence there for a week when someone sank her new dingy and outboard. To solve the problem, she didn’t go to the police, but to the church.
During her talk, Howard will share many other Tangier Island stories as well as old and new photos of the island and images of her island paintings.
The Ocean City Center for the Arts at 502 94th Street is the home of the Art League of Ocean City, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the visual arts in the Ocean City area through education, exhibits, scholarships, programs and community art events. The arts center is supported by memberships, corporate and civic funding, donations and sales of art.