The Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown was transformed into art central for five days last week as the first Art*Island Festival of Arts and Ideas took over much of the luxury hotel’s public space for a series of events and exhibitions encompassing many of the visual and performing arts.
During the five-day festival, works of art from more than 20 local artists, on temporary loan from seven Island galleries, filled the Harbor View’s restaurant, function rooms, and hallways, all while a handful of artisans manned a little shop. From Wednesday through Sunday there were films, slideshows, talks, an art class, a mini artisan’s fair, a kid’s carnival, parties, and even some living artworks at the festival’s Saturday night spotlight event — a masquerade ball. Most of the events were free, all were well-attended, and several drew capacity crowds.
The idea for hosting an all-inclusive arts festival was hatched this past spring by Patrick Phillips, publisher of Arts & Ideas magazine; and the Harbor View’s head of marketing and events, Elizabeth Rothwell. “We wanted to celebrate the fact that the Island is a haven for artists,” Ms. Rothwell said.
“Back in April Elizabeth and I said ‘lets hold an arts festival,'” Mr. Phillips recalled. “It evolved into a much more collaborative thing. We reached out to the chamber of commerce and Arts Martha’s Vineyard.” Along with those organizations, who happily jumped on board, more than 20 local businesses and organizations got involved in an event that exceeded promoters’ expectations and is destined to become an annual event.
The festival kicked off on Wednesday, October 24, in the Menemsha Room with a packed house enjoying an event called Pecha Kucha Night, sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum. Seven Island artists, working in a variety of media, showcased their work in brief slideshow talks. Pecha Kucha (Japanese for chit-chat) is a form that originated in Tokyo. A “20 in 20″ format allows presenters to talk about 20 images for 20 seconds per piece. This form of artistic “speed dating” has since caught on throughout the world, although this was the first event of its kind on the Island. The museum had already planned to host a Pecha Kucha night when they were approached by the Art*Island organizers and they will bring the popular event back to the Harbor View three or four more times this winter.
On Thursday, popular Island artist Traegar di Pietro led an oil painting class in the main dining room. For $25, participants were given step-by-step instructions for completing a painting using materials donated by EduComp. Wine and music made this Paint and Champagne evening, sponsored by The Granary Gallery, a lively event.
Friday evening events included a slideshow and talk by acclaimed Vineyard photographer Alison Shaw. Ms. Shaw recounted highlights from her career and showed samples of some of the stunning work from her award-winning photo books. The event was sponsored by her publisher Vineyard Stories and the Bunch of Grapes bookstore.
Many of the talk attendees then crossed the hallway from the Menemsha Room to the hotel’s dining room for a free party featuring deejay dancing and art videos projected on the ceiling.
The Yard presented a selection of short dances on Saturday afternoon to a standing-room-only crowd in the dining room. About a dozen dancers — from teens to seniors — participated.
On Saturday evening, a showing of short films by the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival segued into a masquerade ball in the dining room. The Sultans of Swing provided the music, and the Harbor View provided elaborate masks and Mardi Gras beads. Many came in costume, including a couple who took the invitation’s suggestion to dress as a work of art and came as an Alexander Calder mobile and Rene Magritte’s “The Son of Man.”
The festival concluded on Sunday afternoon with a kid’s carnival. Among the activities were performances from Spindrift Marionettes, Shakespeare for the Masses, and the IMP improv group; music by the Minnesingers and Good Night Louise; activities hosted by Island Theatre Workshop and felter Krista Fischer. The family-friendly event turned out to be a true carnival with events and entertainers spread out all over the hotel — even including an impromptu mini Shakespeare performance for brunch patrons in the dining room.
Collaboration was key
Mr. Phillips and Ms. Rothwell were very pleased with the turnout and the response. “If we reached for a 10 and aimed for a 7, I think this was a 9.5,” Mr. Phillips said. “It was clear from the level of enthusiasm and engagement and the feedback that poeple were happy.”
Collaboration was key to the success of the event, according to the promoters. “I’ve been blessed in that in reaching out to people it quickly became a collaborative that made it possible,” Mr. Phillips said. “It was almost like a ‘yes’ fest.”
Arts Martha’s Vineyard, one of the sponsors (and also a beneficiary of proceeds along with Arts & Ideas magazine) is a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes arts and culture on the Island through collaborative efforts among arts organizations and businesses. Mr. Phillips, who is on the board, believes that the Art*Island event was a good example of what can be accomplished when the Island’s diverse interests band together.
He is also encouraged by the Harbor View’s involvement. “The partnership that emerged between the Harbor Vew, the Chamber, and Arts Martha’s Vineyard proves how potent a team of organizers can be. It has sort of coalesced into a positive core for the arts.”
The timing intentionally coincided with a regional monthlong initiative called Fall for the Arts that the Chamber was promoting locally. “The hope is to continue to strengthen October as a month of the arts that enables people regionally and locally to celebrate and promote the arts,” Mr. Phillips said.
The event was marketed outside of the Vineyard in boston.com and the Improper Bostonian (the latter sent someone to cover the event) in the hopes of attracting additional business to the Island in the shoulder season.
Next year Mr. Phillips hopes to expand the event, both physically to satellite locations and conceptually, to incorporate the ideas component of the title. Ms. Rothwell has been instrumental in bringing all forms of entertainment to the hotel in the off-season and hopes, with future events, to encourage tourism, as well as provide much-welcomed off-season diversions for locals. Next month, the Harbor View will host a Swine and Dine series of food and wine events with Jan Buhrman of Kitchen Porch Culinary Experiences.
Although both organizers hope to maintain the integrity and community feel of the festival and keep the focus local, Ms. Rothwell commented, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, “Art Basel, watch your back!”