Galleries : Artfully We Stroll Along
A lively mix of Islanders, artists, summer residents and tourists cross back and forth Dukes County Avenue and cluster at the six galleries that have opened their doors for the second Oak Bluffs Arts District Stroll this summer. Music floats through the air and refreshments flow.
Now in its second year, the Stroll has generated new excitement and conviviality for a part of Oak Bluffs and the Island art scene that used to be off the beaten track. Participating this month are Dragonfly Gallery, Alison Shaw Gallery, PIKNIK, Red Mannequin Boutique, Periwinkle Studio and Lucinda's Enamels. Island Interiors has opted out but has filled a festive boat with free pencils, candies and brochures in front of its store.
"In the past, we wouldn't be going all out like this," says photographer Alison Shaw. "We sort of reinvent ourselves." This season she has built her shows around a color theme, and this one is titled "Blue." She says one group of Islanders even came dressed in blue and points to the blue polish on her own toes. Even refreshments carry out the "Blue" theme, with blueberries floating in the glasses of champagne the gallery is serving visitors.
Enjoying Ms. Shaw's vivid blue water and sky photographs are Susie and Joe Alex, who live around the corner on Uncas Avenue during the summer. They notice more and more people coming to the Arts District Stroll. "There's more of a feeling that this is a big event," Ms. Shaw says.
"We come here regularly, whether they have a Stroll or not, because we love the art," says Tomar Waldman of Vineyard Haven, who is viewing the art with her husband, Paul.
Across the street at Periwinkle Studio, returning Islander Marshall Pratt, in his third year at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, walks proudly in front of his photographs. His show, "A Vineyard Boy in Boston," includes a series of photographs of Wan's Convenience Store in Roxbury Crossing, part of his current Boston neighborhood.
An ad-hoc fan club of Vineyarders, including Mr. Pratt's high school classmates, his mother and West Tisbury woodcut artist Ruth Kirchmeier, gather to support him. Ms. Kirchmeier looks through one of the albums Mr. Pratt has created out of urban flotsam.
Photos by Susan Safford
"It's anything that came to my feet as I walked by," he explains. That includes torn-up parking tickets, bank deposit slips and other sidewalk detritus. "I grew up beachcombing on the Island, so I call it "citycombing."
"Everything you see is all Marshall's," says Periwinkle proprietor Judi Schubert. She says she supported him with the advice: "Why don't you go for it? Don't worry about tradition." She recalls his eyes widening with excitement at the encouragement.
Mr. Marshall has used a general store motif to organize his exhibit. It includes old cameras, some of which he still uses like the Clack 6x9. He loves an old Minolta Autocord so much he had its image tattooed on his forearm.
Outside Judy Hartford's Red Mannequin Boutique, which displays the work of Barbara Sandson on its walls, four Connecticut sailors enjoy the scene: Barbara Metzen, Denise Strom, Susan Bettigole and Barbara Kleefeld sailed to the Vineyard on a friend's borrowed 36-foot sailboat out of Jamestown, R.I. They saw an ad in The Times for the Art Stroll and decided to attend.
Saying they dabble a little in the arts, they admit to being tempted by what they saw, but their boat's close quarters made it difficult to do more than look at the art.
Inside Red Mannequin, Ms. Hartford helps customers try on clothing as Island choreographer Marla Blakey serves a tray of sweets. "What's really fabulous about it is that it's like a big block party," Ms. Hartford says. "The spirit is just so positive."
At a crowded Dragonfly gallery, strollers admire the work of artists Stephanie Danforth and Kyle Stevenson. Sharon Lopez, a summer resident on nearby Wamsutta Avenue, has come for the first time. "This is a wonderful thing. It's just very charming, and I want to tell all my friends about it," she says.
At PIKNIK, Elaine Dalzell, a friend of proprietor, Michael Hunter, notes, "There's real unity, which is what it's all about." She guides visitors outside to painter Max Decker's giant "Bridge" ; while standing nearby, Mr. Decker explains that he painted New York's Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
Artist and former Vineyard resident, Nancy Purnell, sums it up saying, "This arts collaborative was planned years ago, when I was on the board at the Firehouse Gallery (now Alison Shaw Gallery)," and talks about the dream coming to fruition.