Family Planning of Martha’s Vineyard’s art show

The Ag Hall in West Tisbury was filled with art and friends at the opening Gala in 2010. This year's gala is on Thursday, May 24. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The Friends of Family Planning Art Show Benefit and Sale is one of the more significant rites of spring on the Vineyard.

The benefit, in its 24th year, is this Memorial Day weekend at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury. The weekend-long event begins with a gala preview party Thursday evening, May 24, from 6 to 8 pm. Food is being donated by local restaurants and caterers, and the music will be provided by keyboardist Jeremy Berlin. The cost of the gala, which is for adults only, is $50, and tickets may be purchased at the door.

“I think this show is, perhaps, the most comprehensive collection of art by Island artists ever,” said Miryam Gerson, former president of Friends of Family Planning, who has helped with the show for 22 years.

This year, the show will display the works of more than 134 Island artists, a 10-percent increase over last year, according to Jennifer Knight, the current president. A number of artists are returning after not showing for several years. “We are excited by the number of artists and the breadth, the variety of the of the work that will be for sale,” Ms. Knight said.

This week, artists delivered their work for the show on Wednesday, an all-day affair with volunteers helping to carry and hang the art.

There will be sculpture and jewelry, paintings, photographs, and more for sale. The artists donate a minimum of 40 percent of the proceeds of their sales to Friends of Family Planning. Two pieces of art have been donated for a silent auction. Bids will be accepted from the gala through Sunday when the winners will be announced. The entire proceeds from the auction will go to Family Planning.

This event supports Family Planning of Martha’s Vineyard, which opened in 1978. Ms. Knight said that the show’s proceeds cover a significant portion of their annual budget. The annual art show benefit is the group’s only major fundraising event.

Family Planning of M.V. provides affordable and confidential reproductive health and family planning services, including screening for anemia, high blood pressure, and diabetes; gynecological exams; counseling and education; pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease (STD), and HIV testing (once provided by the AIDS Alliance); and birth control.

Family Planning director Catharine Coogan says their clients, many of whom are adolescents, trust in the confidentiality of the clinic. “It’s good that they come here,” she says, “because there is a lot of misinformation out there.”

Last year the federal government reduced funds for Family Planning that resulted in a 5- to 10-percent loss of funds for the Vineyard clinic. The fundraiser, therefore, is at least as important as ever, according to Ms. Knight, who added that the money they receive from the state and federal government is never certain from year to year.

“If this year’s gala is like last year’s there will be somewhere between 200 and 400 people,” Ms. Knight said. She is particularly looking forward to the gala this year because it is the first year that Island restaurants and caterers have donated the food. “There should be an interesting range of offerings. We are pleased with the generous support we have received from the community.

“Several years ago a person had just finished building a new house decorated the entire house with art from our show,” said Ms. Knight. Even if there isn’t an empty house to fill or a wall that could use a little color, jewelry that doesn’t need updating or gifts that need to be bought, this show is sure to provide a great overview of what Island artists are producing, while supporting a vital Island organization.

Friends of Family Planning Art Show Gala Preview Party, Thursday, May 24, 6–8 pm, Ag Hall, West Tisbury. $50, adults only. Show continues Fri.–Sun., 10 am–6 pm, free admission. For more information call 508-696-0459 or visit