Captain Avery Museum's Leila Warshaw is framed by the new art installation along the West River. Photo: Charlie Youngmann

Flotsam & Jetsam: Unique Outdoor Art Frames West River

Standing over the riverfront lawn of the Captain Avery Museum in Shady Side, nearly impossible to miss, is a collection of driftwood, bottlecaps, flipflops and other such washed up items all fastened to a wooden frame. It’s both a photo opportunity and an art installation.

“Framing anything is all about your vantage point,” says Donna Anderson, Captain Avery Museum’s program and communications coordinator.

Anderson explains that people have often taken a somewhat romantic view of the Bay, particularly from the vantage point of the museum’s lawn on the West River. By taking that view and framing it with debris—both naturally occurring and manmade—she aims to make onlookers more aware of what they’re putting into the water.

“Flotsam & Jetsam”, named after floating debris tossed from a ship, both unintentionally (flotsam) and on purpose (jetsam), is a collaborative art installation that invites museum guests to get a better look at the water through a window constructed of our discarded items, says Leila Warshaw, the museum’s operations and office manager.

Warshaw says she hopes the piece will remind people of their personal responsibility to consume consciously when living in and around the Bay. Warshaw feels a sense of stewardship and connection with the water when looking through the timber frame.

“One little piece of trash might not be a big deal, but it accumulates,” Warshaw said. “I think we can be more deliberate, more intentional with what we use and how we use it.”

While the aim of the project has been conservation, there is a lighter side to how viewers can interact with the piece, says Anderson.

“The fun or amusing part of it—not to hit them over the head with a hard message—is this silly idea of people standing in the frame and taking pictures of themselves,” Anderson said.

While the border of the frame keeps the point of the piece in view, visitors can still have a good time snapping pics down by the water to spread awareness.

“We’re all exposed to enough information and public messaging about what we ought to do. This piece is getting in on the fun… and a reminder of what they value and what’s beautiful here,” Anderson said.

Anderson got the ball rolling on “Flotsam & Jetsam” after receiving a grant from the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County. Based on a similar piece she had constructed back in 2007 called “Rotten Rococo”, Anderson built the frame with the help of volunteers and lumber donated from the nearby Deale Hardware & Home Center.

Anderson said she aims to have the piece completed in time to display for the museum’s Oyster Festival on Oct. 15, one of its premier events.

Guests are invited to contribute their own floating debris to “Flotsam & Jetsam”. Walk around the building to the water side where there is a yellow bin for collecting contributions. Hang around and take a tour of the house to learn the stories of communities that have lived and worked on the Chesapeake over the last 150 years.

For more information on visiting the museum, visit captainaverymuseum.org.

-Charlie Youngmann