For much of his life, Al Bond has nurtured the artistic culture of his hometown of Easton, Maryland, and the charming waterfront hamlets that comprise Talbot County on the Chesapeake Bay. As the CEO of the arts-focused Avalon Foundation since 2008, Bond orchestrates 300-plus activities yearly, including art and theater classes, concerts, a festival— and the local farmers market.
“What do turnips have to do with an arts organization?” asks Bond with a laugh. Food builds community, of course, and community-building is one of his main efforts. Bond also led the reassembling (it had been parceled out) and recent renovation of the town’s historic art deco Avalon Theatre, which celebrates its centenary this year. Through its reincarnations, the theatre has hosted everything from silent movies to Wynton Marsalis and the Derek Trucks Band concerts. “Little by little we’ve put it back together again,” Bond says. “Like Humpty-Dumpty.”
Bond also helped launch Easton’s annual Plein Air Easton—the country’s largest and most prestigious plein air painting festival, now in its eighteenth year. “Plein Air Easton does such a great job of holding this mirror up for the community to see itself,” Bond says. “We are reminded that we live in this spectacularly beautiful place.” Here, he shares his ideal Talbot County day:
Rise and shine.
Bond begins with a cup of coffee from the local roaster Rise Up, plus a breakfast burrito from their onsite food truck, Mad Eggs.
Take the loop.
To get the lay of the land and surrounding waters, Bond drives a roughly thirty-mile loop starting in Easton, where “you can go into little galleries and see some of the top plein air painters in the world on exhibition year-round,” he says. Sometimes he pops into the Academy Art Museum, “an exceptional small museum with world-class art.” He visits the nearby and bustling hamlet of St. Michaels to pick up some locally distilled dark rum at Lyon Rum and tour the onsite lighthouse and exhibits at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Sometimes, he’ll drive to the Oxford-Bellevue Ferry, which dates to 1683. “You get to see our working waterfront all the way to these cute, manicured homes in colonial spaces.”
Pause for lunch.
Bond relishes lunch with a view from the front porch of the historic Robert Morris Inn, at the tip of the Oxford peninsula. In Easton, he goes for the “innovative specials” or mezze platter at Out of the Fire and, in St. Michaels, the wood-fired pizza at Ava’s Pizzeria & Wine Bar. With its views of Town Creek in Oxford, “the Scottish Highland Creamery has to be the most picturesque place to get ice cream.” One of their hand-churned creations is an Arnold Palmer sorbet.
See the view from the water.
“If you really want to understand this place, get out on the water,” says Bond, who grew up racing sailboats. With 600 miles of waterfront to explore, he frequently plies the rivers, creeks, and Chesapeake Bay in his sailboat. Chartered fishing tours and kayaks also abound in the many small harbors.
Unwind in the evening.
For crab cakes, Bond recommends the Tidewater Inn, because, he says, “they let the crab speak for itself.” For dining, an elegant overnight stay on the water, and a top-tier spa, he touts the “standard of excellence” at Inn at Perry Cabin. “And your day’s not really over until you consume some live music,” he adds, preferably at the Avalon Theatre. “The thousands of players that come through here just love playing in this room because it makes them sound as good as they are.”