A breath of plein air at Martha’s Vineyard Museum


The beauty of the Vineyard has long inspired creative output from artists of all types.

For the next few weeks, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum staff is hoping to similarly inspire local artistic types with the beauty of some of their properties. During the month of October, the museum, as part of an Island-wide, month-long initiative called Fall for the Arts, is hosting a series of Plein Air Artist Sessions — community gatherings around the Island intended to encourage the creation of paintings, photography, poetry, and music — on site.

The Plein Air sessions, which kicked off last weekend at the Gay Head Lighthouse, will be held at properties owned or managed by the museum. Upcoming community gatherings will take place on the next three weekends at the current site of the museum campus in Edgartown, the museum’s future home at the old maritime hospital in Vineyard Haven, and the Edgartown Lighthouse.

Any and all artists — professional or amateur — are invited to participate. Visual artists are encouraged to set up and paint for the day or take photos. Writers and musicians may use the opportunity to create and/or perform. There is no charge for participation, but interested parties are urged to notify the museum in advance in order to be included in promotional materials. The public is invited to join the festivities, observe and mingle with the artists, and find their own inspiration in the diverse beauty of the designated sites.

“We want artists to come out and create or perform — do what they want to do and on the flip side let people come and participate in these open sessions,” said David Nathans, executive director of the museum. “We will use these sites as a collective opportunity for the creative side and the audience side to get together.”

Mr. Nathans compares the arts promoting initiative to their recent Island Faces Portrait Contest where, last fall, local artists submitted paintings and photographs of Islanders for judging by a panel. The winning portraits and finalists were on display at the museum until last weekend. The audience favorites will be featured in a show at Featherstone Center for the Arts from October 14 through the 31st.

This time around, artists will interpret the landscape rather than the people of the Vineyard. The executive director comments that the event was scheduled to take advantage of the Island’s beauty this time of year and, in particular, the scenic views from the properties that they either own or steward. (The museum leases management rights to the Gay Head, Edgartown, and East Chop lighthouses).

“We have these wonderful facilities,” Mr. Nathans said, “whether you’re at one of the lighthouses or you’re standing on the front lawn of the marine hospital looking out at Lagoon Pond.” Participants in this coming weekend’s Plein Air session at the museum’s Edgartown campus will have a number of interesting subjects to choose from. Some artists have expressed interest in painting the Fresnel lens or the 1730s Cooke House. Others will be aiming their easels at the view of historic homes from the museum’s gatehouse.

“This is a chance to showcase these properties,” Mr. Nathans said. “And to hopefully invite new audiences to come and see us.”

The paintings will hang in the museum’s Spotlight Gallery for a few weeks next January. If enough poets and musicians find the inspiration during the sessions to create new works, the museum may hold public events to present those as well.

“We’re using the term artists in the broadest sense,” Mr. Nathans said. “I’d love to see poets and musicians work out some creative ideas. It would be nice to have a multi-disciplinary representation.”

The Plein Air sessions will be a key feature of the October Fall for the Arts initiative sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Arts and Culture Collaborative, the MV Chamber of Commerce, and the MV Times, among others. The event is “…dedicated to sharing the arts on Martha’s Vineyard with the world,” according to promotional material. Other happenings this month include a multi-media Festival of Arts and Ideas to be held at the Harbor View Hotel from October 24 through the 28th.

Says Mr. Nathans of the MV Arts and Culture Collaborative, “The aim is to make one plus one plus one equal 10 instead of just three, to stimulate joint programs and give seasonal, as well as year round residents, a better idea of how the cultural aspects of the Island contribute to their life.”

Plein Air Artist Sessions:

Saturday and Sunday, October 13 and 14 – MV Museum Edgartown Campus

Saturday and Sunday, October 20 and 21 – MV Museum Vineyard Haven Campus

Saturday and Sunday, October 27 and 28 – Edgartown Lighthouse

All sessions will take place from noon to five. Admission to all of the properties is free for anyone that wants to observe and interact with the artists as they work. For more information, visit mvmuseum.org or call 508-627-4441.