“Its been a fabulous run,” said Don McKillop, co-owner of the Dragonfly Fine Arts Gallery in Oak Bluffs. “We had thought about a five-year plan and the five years was coming to an end.”
Mr. McKillop and his wife, Susan Davy, who purchased the business in 2009, are closing up shop at the beginning of October. The space has been a gallery for 18 years.
The couple will continue to live in the house, which is a residential/commercial building, and intend to remain active in one way or another in the arts community. And, Ms. Davy, promises, they will continue to maintain the beautiful gardens that have won the gallery a number of community awards for beautification.
Both Mr. McKillop and Ms. Davy are artists. They plan to use their freed up time to pursue their creative endeavors, spend time with their kids and grandchildren, and finally get a chance to enjoy the Island after five years of a seven-day summer work week. “Our grandkids are getting older,” Mr. McKillop said. “So are we. They’re on vacation in the summer when we’re working.” This winter Ms. Davy and Mr. McKillop will visit their grandchildren, ages 2 to 12, who are scattered up and down the East Coast, and they are already looking forward to visits from them next summer.
Starting September 5 and running through October 7, all the art work — representing 23 artists — will be discounted by 25 percent. The artists will still receive their share of the profits on the full, non-sale price.
“It’s our way of giving back a little to the community,” Mr. McKillop said. “And help the artists move some more work. It’s important. We know what it’s like being artists.”
As a matter of fact, Mr. McKillop was introduced to the gallery as one of the artists represented by former owners Holly and John Alaimo. He showed his oil paintings there for many years, and the two couples became friends.
“We knew Holly and John for 12 years before Holly decided to retire, as we are doing now,” Mr. McKillop said. “She asked if we wanted to buy. We had already been living here for about six months.”
In April 2009, Mr. McKillop and Ms. Davy purchased the building and business, moved in to the small living area, and opened the doors to the public one month later.
Dragonfly, which originally opened its doors in 1995, was, by the time of the changing of hands, an established business and the cornerstone of the Oak Bluffs Arts District. The Alaimos and Judy Drew, who owns Periwinkle Studio, were the original gallery owners in the area. Eventually the old firehouse across the street from Dragonfly was converted into a gallery (now home to the Alison Shaw Gallery), Michael Hunter opened his store and gallery PIKNIK Art & Apparel (currently located in Edgartown), Judy Hartford converted part of her home into the shop Red Mannequin (now relocated to Vineyard Haven as Bananas), and Annie Parr constructed a building that now houses her Island Interiors interior design business and a studio store for jeweler Stefanie Wolf, Stefanie Wolf Designs. The area became incorporated as the Oak Bluffs Arts District seven years ago.
“It’s hard,” Mr. McKillop continued, about the loss of a business that has been considered one of the anchors of the Arts District. “We know it’s a big corner to fill.” However, as he pointed out, “There have been a lot of changes in the Arts District and there will continue to be changes.” He cites the most recent additions to the designated area – artist Renee Balter’s new studio in her home on Vineyard Avenue and the A Gallery on Uncas Avenue on the other side of the Campground.
“I just think that it’s really sad,” said Ms. Alaimo of the closing of the Dragonfly. “It was such an institution, but I do understand them wanting to live in that space. There was always something beautiful when I would close each season and take the space back as a living space. It has great vibes.”
Ms. Alaimo recounted the history of the space: “Initially it was a general store in the 20s. It was the original general store that sold wares to the Campground. It has such history. We lived in it. It needed help and it was great to see when Susan and Don moved in they did so much work on it.”
Ms. Davy and Mr. McKillop visited the Island for many years before making the move here. Mr. McKillop enjoyed a successful corporate career as well as establishing himself as an artist. Ms. Davy, who is also a photographer, worked for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the New England Conservatory of Music before retiring in 2007. “This kind of opens up the sadness of moving on,” she said of the couple’s decision to retire for a second time.
But don’t expect the Dragonfly owners to sit still. This winter as always, the couple will travel. Last year Mr. McKillop was the first artist in residence at the Kevin Box Studio in Santa Fe and he will be back working there once again. “I had a studio in Santa Fe and I got a lot of work done. I realized how much I missed working in the studio. It’s really repair time,” he elaborated. Mr. McKillop is anxious to get back to painting and will use at least part of the gallery space as a studio.
The couple is open to alternative uses for the space. “Lots of people have had great ideas to continue working in the arts,” Mr. McKillop said. “Pop up galleries, retreats for artists. We’re going to take it all in and think about it.”
“That’s where we are,” Ms. Davy said. “At a strategic pause. We made one decision. We’re leaping into the unknown at the moment with confidence that there will be a number of wonderful doors opening. There already are a number right now. We just don’t knew which ones it will be.”
Over the years, Mr. McKillop and Ms. Davy have represented 75 artists, about one third to one half locals as well as many others who spent time painting on the Vineyard. A number of emerging artists were given a start in their careers at the gallery during the current owners’ tenure. Others, like Traeger di Pietro and Adam Thompson, first started showing on Island when Ms. Alaimo was running the gallery.
“We felt it was important to make the decision and put it out there while people still had the chance for closure,” said Ms. Davy. “We’ll say goodbye and help match artists with new venues.”
Ms. Davy is grateful for all of the friends she and Mr. McKillop have made over the years among artists, collectors, and other business owners, most of whom she says have been very supportive of their decision to close. “We’ve had wonderful relationships with visitors and artists,” she said. “And we’ll miss that. Not to mention living with all this beautiful art. We’ve been living in visual splendor.”
September Reception, 5 to 7 pm, Saturday, Sept. 7, Dragonfly Fine Arts Gallery, Oak Bluffs. The gallery is open Thursdays through Sundays 12 noon to 5 pm through October 7. For more information, call 508-693-8877 or visit mvdragonfly.com.