Art pops up in unusual places on Martha’s Vineyard

One of the unusual places to find art is the Oak Bluffs music venue The Pit Stop.
Photo by Naomi Pallas

One of the unusual places to find art is the Oak Bluffs music venue The Pit Stop.

Gallery-goers, diners, and gardeners alike can appreciate the fruits of Martha’s Vineyard’s artistic community as local art spills from galleries to the walls of Island restaurants, performance spaces, and a local nursery.

In Oak Bluffs the Red Cat Kitchen at Ken ‘n’ Beck greets its guests with the aroma of head chef Ben deForest’s fresh food and the visuals of his eccentric art collection.

“When we first opened, it felt like someone had stopped caring about the vibe of the place. So, we took lemons and made lemonade,” Mr. deForest said.

The walls are covered with paintings, photographs, and glassworks that give the restaurant a quirky, mismatched feel, with no single theme to capture its ambience. Painter Rez Williams’s large oils of New Bedford fishing boats sail majestically across the walls of the bar and dining rooms. Along with the silhouette of a bridge by glass “artiste” Carlos Morales hanging between the bar and dining room and an assortment of vintage blue and green soda bottles and small framed flasks, the boat images create a nautical atmosphere.

This motif is disrupted, however, by offbeat pieces from Mr. deForest’s own collection. Local artist Rocco Vitelle’s graffiti-esque depictions of eerie “Alice in Wonderland” scenes feature Alice in a short dress and fishnets and a Cheshire cat bearing his fangs and a magic marker drawing of a swanky, cigarette-smoking Frankenstein and a mad scientist with an ice cream cone.

Other pieces from local artists such as painters Traeger di Pietro and Chetta Kelley are scattered across the walls, creating a medley of works that gives Ken ‘n’ Beck its funky, one-of-a-kind character and makes it Mr. deForest’s own. “When I walk in, it feels familiar. I’m doing some of my best work here, and if I’m comfortable, hopefully everyone else is, too,” he said.

The pieces can be viewed alongside dinner when the restaurant, located on Kennebeck Avenue, opens at 5 pm. All but those from Mr. deForest’s own collection are for sale.

A few blocks away, on Dukes County Avenue, is The Pit Stop Workshop Co., an automotive repair shop turned music venue/performance space.

The Pit Stop has the feeling of an artist’s garage and a musician’s basement. Since the beginning of July, the spacious room behind the building’s back entrance has housed works from four local artists, introduced to the venue by local painter/sculptor Nina Gomez Gordon of Cobalt Gallery.

The current artists are the first to have their work at the Pit Stop. One wall holds Richard Limber’s colorful, sensual mixed media of female nudes. On another, a music theme comes into play with Basia Jaworska Silva’s painted piano tops and guitar backs of lively music scenes like “Ma Rainey” crooning in a night club flanked by a saxophone player and piano man. Ms. Gordon’s oil paintings of wintry Island scenes add a local touch to the mix, as well as Marcia Smilack’s photo “I Dreamt I Could Sing” of boat reflections on water.

On Saturday, Aug. 11, an exhibit by Chris Gonyea of Kingston, N.Y., will move in. His show, “From Pines to Vines,” will run until September 9. Mr. Gonyea will contribute a number of abstract images of the Hudson Valley’s pines that he created with erasure marks through ash collected on paper after holding it over an open flame. The exhibit will evolve over the course of the month with the addition of Vineyard-themed artwork of trees and plants. Mr. Gonyea will hold a reception August 11 from 5 to 8 pm.

“The Pit Stop is meant to support the arts,” said manager Donald Muckerheide. The garage’s neighboring room has a stage and sound system for performers, where a small library brims with antique books from Bradley Square Church, old magazines, and vintage Island music posters that plaster every inch of wall space, advertising shows for performers like Kate Taylor, Dan Waters, and Jemima James.

Open to all ages, The Pit Stop is yet to have regular hours, but the artwork can be viewed during the evening shows, such as the Sunday night jazz concerts and Open Mic Night on Mondays.

Throughout August, Vineyard Gardens nursery in West Tisbury will present an aesthetic of plants and art every Friday for their Gallery in the Gardens series.

“A garden is very much like an art, so combining it with art was natural,” said manager Chris Wiley. “When designing a garden, you base it on different colors and textures. It takes an artist to design a really beautiful garden.”

Each week eight to ten local artists will display their work along paths between vibrant garden beds and in front of the nursery’s nine retail greenhouses, based on how the colors and styles of their works coordinate with the setting. Mediums will vary from paintings and pottery to photography and jewelry.

Ms. Wiley, who is the nursery’s horticultural expert, is busy preparing the gardens for the events. “We’re spiffing up our nursery and planting new flowers, so it will look great,” she said. Featured plants include pink mandevilla vine, hydrangeas, blue mist shrubs, and Mexican sunflowers.

The first gallery opens Friday, August 3, with refreshments and live music from Michael Tinus and company. The lineup includes photography by Michael Johnson, Matthew Goethals, and Dawn Barnard; paintings by Lanny McDowell and Joan Stillman; pastels by Margaret Emerson; and Cecilia Minnehan’s jewelry. Guests can stroll through flowers and the works of these local artists from 5 to 8 pm.