Lynn Branson's 2017 Best in World Interpretative Wood Sculpture. Photo courtesy of Ward Museum.

Grant Boosts Eastern Shore Exhibit Spotlighting Female Waterfowl Carvers

The Ward Museum of Waterfowl Art at Salisbury University is the recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts for their new exhibit, “Carving Out Her Niche.” The project is aimed at showcasing and developing the role of female carvers within the wildfowl art industry. 

“We wanted to give the spotlight to the phenomenal women carvers who historically helped advance the artform, but to also create spaces for education,” says Kristin Sullivan, Executive Director of the museum. “The Ward Museum plays an important role in the stewardship of wildfowl art, giving it visibility, but also in providing spaces for education.” The grant will allow women carvers and artists to work directly with students around the country, not just on the Eastern Shore. 

Wildfowl art has developed distinctly on Maryland’s Eastern Shore due to the area’s proximity to the Atlantic flyway, a migratory path used by thousands of different types of birds annually. The artform grew out of communities who were settling in the various areas, hunting and trapping the birds for sustenance. Decoy art speaks to a relationship between humans and nature, and the inherent appreciation therein. Women were a part of the development of the artform from a very early stage, often acting as teams with their husbands (one would carve while the other would paint), and more recently working in decoy-making factories. 

Today, however, women are playing a role in advancing the artform through their exposition. “A lot of the female carvers today are doing really fantastic decorative work, pushing boundaries in their interpretive design,” says Sullivan, who notes Lynn Branson, a female carver who has won the title of World Champion in the interpretive division a total of four times. “She sees things in the wood and carves it out.” 

Branson will be participating with other artists to provide education for students around the country. Men and women are encouraged to sign up for carving and decorating classes, furthering the Museum’s mission of advancing wildfowl art into the 21st century. 

The “Carving Out Her Niche” exhibit will run Sept. 22, 2022, through Jan. 2023. For more information on the program and the museum, visit wardmuseum.org

-Duffy Perkins