Night Heron Gallery owned and operated by artists

The multi-media art of Washington Ledesma. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Night Heron Gallery, which opened its doors at 58 Main Street in Vineyard Haven on April1 this year, is rather unique. Its distinctiveness comes in part from being a collaboration of 10 Island artists, all equal partners, who own, operate, and show their work in the gallery: painters Ann Howes and Carolyn Warren, felt and fiber artist Whitney Moody, ceramic artists Washington Ledesma, Lisa Strachan, and Nick Thayer (also painter and printmaker), poet and book artist Ingrid Goff-Maidoff, jewelers Diana Stewart and Kathleen Tackabury, and multi-media artist Beldan Radcliffe.

Their decision to open a year-round gallery was the result of motivations beyond having worked alongside each other on the Island artisan circuit.

Ms. Radcliffe, who works in etching, collage and jewelry, explains why, in light of the downturn in the economy, the group decided this was a good time to start a new gallery: “There is a real movement in retail to shop locally, and to buy things that are handmade by artists that will give more meaning to the things that they buy.”

Ceramacist Lisa Strachan adds, “Its nice for us to put down roots after being at the fairs for so long, and many of us will continue to be at the fairs. But to have a place to anchor and show fine work that we don’t want to show outside, is really exciting for us.”

Poet and book arts artist Ingrid Goff-Maidoff, joins the conversation. “We have been talking about it for 10 years,” she says. “We have been doing a holiday shop together for years, jumping in like hermit crabs wherever there was an open shop. We were in this shop during the holiday season last year, and when it became available year-round, it prompted us to act.”

If the group harbored any doubts, the surrounding Main Street businesses had none. Ms. Strachan says, “Our neighbors have been really welcoming. It meant so much to me that Peter Simon came in, also Heather from Rainy Day, to really encourage us.”

“And Nancy Cramer from Shaw Cramer,” jeweler Kathleen Tackabury quickly adds. She continues, “We really are creating an artist haven within the downtown area. I think Vineyard Haven has had a hard time in the past. We have all seen the empty stores, but I think there has been a rebirth along Main Street. We have new stores, restaurants coming in, and a juice bar across the street.”

There were concerns with such things as being able to keep up with schedules and having year round responsibilities. Artist Nick Thayer, who works with ceramics, print making, and painting, offers some insights: “Most of the people involved are doing these other shows and so it’s a feat to figure out how to cover the shop and manage their personal work.”

But Mr. Thayer notes the bonus to being in a year-round location: “It is really fun to be in town, because people come in not just to buy something, but also just to say hi. That is a different concept for most of us especially during the winter. It’s nice to have a social aspect that is community based.”

Ms. Strachan adds, “One thing that is really great at the Artisans Festivals is that you meet the artists in their booth, and we will have that same presence here as all of us are working. So whenever you come into the gallery, you will meet one of us, so even though it is a concern as to how busy we are all going to be, it’s a positive aspect of the gallery.”

The choice of the gallery’s name is explained by Ms. Tackabury: “Night Herons are indigenous to the Island, and we were looking for a beautiful image that we could all connect with that also pertained to the Island. Beldan and her husband Dave came up with the name, and it just clicked.”

They are all in agreement that they are having fun. “This is the first time on Martha’s Vineyard that a whole group of craftsmen and artists are getting together to create this year-round adventure,” says ceramicist and painter Washington Ledesma. “And that is what is great to see, and why everybody will come.”

“Our whole mission statement is based on the cooperative spirit we bring to the space and to the gallery,” says Ms. Tackabury. “That sums up what we are trying to embody within our group.”

Night Heron Opening Celebration is Friday, July 1, 6 pm to 8 pm. Night Heron Gallery, 58 Main Street Vineyard Haven.