Ruth Adams makes Treehouse Gallery unique

Treehouse Gallery owner Ruth Adams happily presides over her eclectic collection of art. — File photo by Lynn Christoffers

At different times during the day, as the spirit moves her, Ruth Adams sits at the piano that stands along a wall in her gallery surrounded by all manner of art, and plays for the pleasure of it. She smiles. “I like to start the day with ‘Amazing Grace,'” she says.

Treehouse Gallery with its wildly eclectic inventory of old and new, artifacts and artwork, antique and ethnic pieces, expresses the creativity and personality of Ms. Adams — an utterly calm and unself-conscious woman who meets most questions with a smile and shrug.

“The gallery is based on serendipity,” she says. “It’s a happy place. And I’m more of an artist and a people person than a businesswoman.”

In addition to her paintings, Ms. Adams has written, illustrated and published “Artist of Angels” a Christmas story, and “Old Bear on Martha’s Vineyard.”

She has been a Waldorf School teacher and a recreation therapist at Windemere, and currently works as a home caregiver. “I don’t really look for jobs,” she says, “things just come and rescue me.”

But her passion is art — “my disease,” she calls it. A photographer, painter, ceramicist (she’s a regular presence at Featherstone Center for the Arts), and illustrator; her work is included among the clutter of treasures that fill the first floor rooms of the converted old house on State Road in West Tisbury that has been her gallery for the past three years.

The atmosphere is relaxed, the art is accessible, and there’s an overriding sense of fun in finding yourself in the midst of a room full of randomly placed art.

“People come in and they discover all sorts of little surprises,” she says as she pauses to touch and identify this and that piece: a Ray Ellis original watercolor, an early Allen Whiting, one of the late Gretchen Feldman’s Chamber Music Society posters, seaweed art by Rose Treat, antique toy walking horses, small framed fish by Janet Messino, her son Paul Murray’s paintings, and a collection of paintings by Claudio Gasparini, an Italian artist who has been a seasonal resident of the Island since 1984.

Among the china, rugs, wicker baskets, fabrics, paintings and prints, there are Mexican Retablos, a large carnival roulette wheel (she thinks it would be just the thing for an interesting table top), and William O’Callahan’s whimsical driftwood sculptures.

And when at the end of a season when she sometimes thinks of closing the gallery to just concentrate on her painting and ceramics, she says she always decides: “It’s too much work to quit; it’s easier to keep going,” explaining that there’s too much inventory to disperse.

The small town Minnesota native, who at 76, has moved and moved again — “We’ve survived all kinds of things by the time we get to this age” — lives and paints on the second floor of the gallery.

“This is the center of the universe. My car is in the garage and I hardly miss it because I can walk to the grocery and the post office and everything. I’m very creative and spontaneous and basically that’s how I manage to keep going.”

Treehouse Gallery, 472 State Rd., West Tisbury. 508-693-6645