An erosion of respect

An erosion of respect

by -

To the Editor:

To say that Featherstone Center for the Arts is a very special place is not enough to describe what it means to so many people. Every time I drive up the hill, past the cow pasture, under the arching branches of the magnificent old trees, passing the labyrinth, the outdoor kiln, the memorial garden, and the whimsical works of art that are scattered around the grounds, my spirit brightens and I feel more alive in anticipation of yet another enlightening, enriching, and enjoyable experience at a place where “the arts are alive.”

The people at Featherstone are the keepers of the art that surrounds them, and they take this job quite seriously. Works of art are labors of love, the legacies of the artists that made them. In some minds these works are like the children of the artist, and the keeper of the art takes the role of foster parent.

Last night, sadly, one of those legacies came to an end. A beautiful stone sculpture — a one-of-a-kind creation by artist David Brown met its demise during the Musical Monday event. It was a beautiful night, the crowd was happy, children were running free all over the grounds, and the music was great.

Life is full of opposing views, and people are not all of the same mind. While some folks complained about the $10 admission fee for adults (children under 14 enter for free), another family who has come to Musical Mondays for 17 years left a check for $1,000 in appreciation of their good times at Featherstone.

So it goes that some people respected, appreciated, and were grateful for the opportunity to have a great time at a bargain price, others saw it as a chance to let their children go unsupervised, to do whatever they please, which unfortunately included destroying a sculpture that stood unharmed for many years. This sculpture had survived through countless threats over the years of its life, including three or four hurricanes, but it still stood with its rock-solid strength through it all — until last night. Toward the end of the evening, as the crowd was winding down and the band was winding up playing the final song, there was a crashing sound loud enough to be heard over the music. A group of children — some said two girls, some said three boys — had knocked over the stone sculpture, and then had run away. It seems this had to have been a deliberate act, as hurricanes before them had not been able to render a fatal blow. Since all hurricanes have names, what is the name of this one? We will probably never know.

For 17 years, FCA has been a venue where individuals and families alike come to share the love of art, have a great time, meet up with friends, eat, dance, run free on the grounds, and all of this for a bargain price. Wouldn’t it be sad if this wonderful place got ruined?

This incident leaves me with a deep concern that I feel obliged to share. Is this sort of erosion more dangerous to our Island than the one we read about on the front pages so often? Isn’t the erosion of our respect, courtesy, manners, gratitude, and accountability something that we should address? Do we no longer know the difference between right and wrong? Do we care? Do we own responsibility for our actions and those of our children, or do we not? Don’t we need to protect this Island from both kinds or erosion before it’s too late?

The arts are alive at Featherstone – well, almost all of them are.

Amy Custis

Vineyard Haven


  1. I am aware of the incident that you mention in your letter. I was in attendance on that particular Monday. I have attended several of these Musical Monday’s and it is a wonderful event for parents and children to attend an event together and we feel so lucky to have the opportunity. From my observation children are running everywhere, in the woods, rolling down the hills. Isn’t that what children do? If there is an expectation that children are to sit by their parent’s side the entire evening then you should state it and inform everyone that comes by the table to pay the “bargain entry fee” what is “off limits”. Many of these families come from off-island and are here visiting and may not understand that there is “art in the yard”. Perhaps a large sign posted would help. I am sure that the children that caused this did not have the knowledge or intent to destroy something valuable. I am sure they saw it as a tower of rocks (and I do not mean that is a demeaning way). For you to state that this is a sign of erosion of respect and manners is a bit harsh. I am positive if those children and their parents were informed that certain areas are “off limits” that every parent there would have been extremely diligent in ensuring that their children not go near the art. It is an unfortunate incident but for you to blatantly suggest that the parents of these children let them “do as they please” is just rude. I assure you that if I placed my grandmother’s antique china on the dining room table and did not make it clear to my children it was “off limits” they would treat it as a toy. It was one incident and your fatalistic view that Featherstone would be “destroyed” is over the top. And by the way what does the cost of “tea in china” and your $10 admission have to do with your point?

  2. I am disappointed but not surprised by this behavior from people (also see Mr. Blau’s letter this week)–common sense and manners have gone out the window in favor of self-aggrandizing behavior. It’s difficult to enjoy a night out at the movies these days because of rude, poor behavior. People talk and use their phone during a theatrical performance–disrespectful to others in attendance and most of all to the performers. I observe how poorly children behave in public every day. The “me” generation is back with no respect for others around them. Remember the “stampede” at the MV Hebrew Center event last year? Truly incredible. It seems to be a generational change, as parents of my generation would NEVER allow us to behave as intolerably as kids do now. Just had a prime example of this at my job yesterday; the look on other patrons’ faces was incredulous.