SALISBURY — Each year the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University, plays host to the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival, bringing talented artists from across the globe to Ocean City, allowing them to showcase their carving talent.
This year’s event will be held at the Roland E. Powell Convention Center on April 24-26. The wildfowl carvings are highly meticulous decorative works of art that can be used as functional hunting decoys. These spectacular sculptures, coveted by celebrities and avid collectors alike, mimic wildfowl species such as red tail hawks, bald eagles, saw whet owls, wood ducks and thousands of other species from around the world.
The Ward name honors the legacy of those Crisfield “wildfowl counterfeiters in wood” Lem and Steve Ward who transformed functional decoy carving to the prized decorative artform that is it today.
On display will be more than 1,400 wildfowl carvings by artists representing all levels of experience — from youth to world champions each competing for a share of nearly $60,000 in cash and prizes. Since the first competition, more than four decades ago, the World Championship has awarded carvers with over $2.5 million in prize money. It is a great opportunity for anyone attending to learn about eclectic bird species through the carvers’ interpretation of nature.
“You will have a chance to enjoy the beauty of many of the more than 600 bird species in the United States, in addition to species from around the globe,” said Lora Bottinelli, executive director of the Ward Museum. “For anyone who adores nature, enjoys birds and has an appreciation for fine art, the World Championship is the place to be to experience the best wildfowl art the world has to offer.”
Rodney Stotts Falconry, a demonstration of the ancient art of falconry, will be hosting a demonstration on Sunday, April 26. Stotts will present an educational lecture with live birds on display, followed by free flight demonstrations with a variety of raptors. Audience members have the opportunity to witness a hawk and falcon sharpen their hunting skills while experiencing the silent flight of an owl. Attendees will also learn about the raptors’ many adaptations for survival, and the vital role they play at the top of the food chain in their environment.
This a rare opportunity for both bird lovers and photographers to interact with and observe these majestic birds, as they typically hunt in remote places or at night.
Educational classes, seminars and demonstrations by master carvers gives visitors the opportunity to learn the ins and outs of wildfowl carving from those responsible helping the art evolve to the level it is at today. Activities for children are plentiful at the Kids Corner, where children can create soap carvings, carve feathers using power tools and receive instruction from a world champion carver and decoy painter. For those wishing to partake in nature’s local bounty, outdoor activities will include an early morning bird-watching excursion to Assateague Island and a sunset cruise on Sinepuxent Bay.
Saturday’s live auction provides a chance to bid on original works of art by distinguished artists from around the world. A silent auction for the two winning carvings from the Champagne Waterfowl and Champagne Waterfowl Champion divisions is also scheduled.
Visitors of the event have the opportunity to shop from a wide variety of vendors to purchase paintings, photography, carvings, bronze sculptures, jewelry, folk art, home decorating items and carving supplies. Buyers may purchase carvings directly from the artists at the Carvers’ Art Shop.
Show hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday, April 24, and 9 a.m.-5 p.m.. The awards ceremony begins at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 25. On Sunday, April 26, show hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for seniors and students. Children under 12 are admitted free when accompanied by a paying adult.
For more information, call 410-742-4988, ext. 120, or visit the Ward Museum website at www.wardmuseum.org.