Established in 1968, the Ward Foundation has been dedicated to promoting wildfowl art and preserving the legacy of Eastern Shore decoy carvers, Lem and Steve Ward.
For the first several years, this was done primarily through advocacy, special exhibitions, and publications. These events include the Wildfowl Carving and Art Exhibit, held at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, and the Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition, originally held in Salisbury but moved in 1979 to the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, where it is still held today.
In 1975 the Ward Foundation established the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art. Until 1991 the Ward Museum was housed in the Great Hall of Holloway Hall on the campus of Salisbury University. From the beginning of the creation of the Ward Museum, there has been a partnership between Salisbury University and the Ward Foundation.
Expanding over the next decade and a half, the museum eventually outgrew its housing on campus. By the late 1980s, there was talk of a new facility. Plans were drawn up, and in 1992 the Ward Museum opened at Schumaker Pond where it remains today.
In 2000 the Ward Foundation donated the Ward Museum facility and its collections to Salisbury University. At the same time, the Ward Foundation became an affiliated foundation of Salisbury University.
Since then, the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art has thrived. The Ward Foundation has the responsibility of operating the Ward Museum, ensuring that its educational mission is advanced and that it remains viable and vibrant to the audiences it serves.
In 2023, Salisbury University and the Ward Foundation parted ways. Salisbury University plans to create a new museum in downtown Salisbury to showcase the permanent collection. The Ward Foundation continues to run the Ward World Championships as well as other programming. The Ward Foundation is no longer located at the Schumaker Pond building but is building stronger relationships with other Wildfowl Organizations as we continue our mission with the exploration of art, nature, and tradition.
- 1895 – Stephen Ward born in Crisfield, MD
- 1897 – Lemuel Ward born in Crisfield, MD
- 1926 – L.T. Ward & Bros partnership formed by Lem and Steve in Crisfield, MD
- 1968 – Bird carving established as Maryland’s Official Pastime
- 1968 – Ward Foundation established in Salisbury, MD
- 1968 – Inaugural Atlantic Flyway Waterfowl and Bird Carving Exhibit held in Salisbury, MD
- 1971 – Inaugural World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition held in Salisbury, MD
- 1972 – Lem & Steve receive honorary degrees from Salisbury State College
- 1975 – Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art opens in the Great Hall, Salisbury State College
- 1976 – Steve Ward dies
- 1978 – World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition moves to Ocean City, MD
- 1983 – Lem receives National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment of Arts, Washington DC
- 1984 – Lem Ward dies
- 1989 – Chesapeake Vision campaign begins for new museum facility
- 1992 – Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art opens at Schumaker Pond in Salisbury, MD
- 1998 – Inaugural Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo held at the Ward Museum
- 2000 – Ward Foundation becomes an affiliated foundation of Salisbury University
- 2008 – 40th anniversary of Ward Foundation celebrated at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University
- 2023 – The Ward Foundation and Salisbury University part ways. The Ward Foundation continues holding wildfowl art competitions. The Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival in Ocean City, MD; The Chesapeake Challenge in Crisfield, MD during the Crisfield Heritage Festival; Sam Dyke Memorial “Old Bird” Antique Decoy Competition during the Waterfowl Festival in Easton, MD.
- 2024 – Exciting plans for the upcoming year! The 53rd Annual Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival is scheduled for April 26-28, 2024, featuring a Pop-up Exhibit of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art. Additionally, the Chesapeake Challenge will take place alongside the Crisfield Heritage Festival on October 19, 2024.
- Beyond 2024 – Anticipating the future! The Annual Ward World Championship Wildfowl Carving Competition and Art Festival, Chesapeake Challenge, Sam Dyke Memorial “Old Bird” Antique Decoy Competition, and more pop-up exhibits of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art!