Survival as an artist can be challenging. Establishing oneself in a venue, forfeiting a percentage of the sale price to a gallery, and finding a space to work can be daunting — especially on the Vineyard where living space, never mind work space, is at a premium.
For a small group of local artists — a solution was to be found in collaboration. Three fine art painters and one graphic designer recently pooled their resources and rented a combination workspace and showroom on Beach Road in Vineyard Haven. Last Saturday, the newest Island art space, which they have christened “The Workshop,” hosted an opening that attracted a sizable crowd of well wishers, art lovers, and the merely curious.
“The show the other night put us on the map, created the buzz,” says Dan VanLandingham, one of the partners in the fledgling venture. He was joined by Terry Crimmen, Lauren Tuttle, and Tara Kenny in welcoming the public to view their work (as well as striking wampum mosaics by Frank Rapoza and beautifully crafted multi-wood furniture by Pinto Abrams) and explore their individual studio spaces.
The building, which formerly housed the Martha’s Vineyard Century 21 real estate operation and a couple of lawyers’ offices, sits on the water between Jeff Serusa’s Seaworthy Gallery and the Martha’s Vineyard Times office.
The two-story wooden structure has a history as a creative space. In the 1930s, 40s and early 50s, it housed a model ship workshop: the Van Ryper business, which supplied scale models for military strategists. The Seaworthy Gallery was the showroom.
The interior of The Workshop is divided into a number of spaces, including a good-sized entrance area and two other downstairs rooms which collectively have been fitted out as attractive gallery space with stark grey walls and track lighting. Mr. Vanlandingham and Ms. Tuttle each have a studio space on the ground floor. Mr. Crimmen shares the upstairs with his longtime girlfriend, Ms. Kenny, who has relocated her growing design business to an attractive skylit office. Her Illumination Design Group specializes in logo design/branding, email marketing, web design and advertising for clients ranging from Tisberry Frozen Yogurt and the ArtCliff Diner to the Vineyard Artisans and the Chilmark Flea Market.
Currently the work of the three artist/partners is on display in the front galleries. Mr. Crimmen’s work is primarily realist scenes in oils. His landscapes are generally punctuated with animals (one of his favorite subjects) or other figures. Mr. Crimmen has been painting since he was a teen when he attended a specialized art high school in Florida, but he has never shown his work in a gallery before. However, his wonderful rendering of a black-and-white saddleback pig is familiar to many as the 2013 M.V. Agricultural Fair poster.
The other paintings of Mr. Crimmen’s currently on display similarly capture the vitality of the Island. A lovely depiction of two white horses in a field on Middle Road was, like much of his work, based on a location at which Mr. Crimmen was working as a house painter. He runs a successful business, specializing in decorative painting. A small depiction of a stocky work horse was inspired by something he recently discovered. “All work horses in the 19th century were blind,” he says. A trio of paintings of boat propellers reflect another his interests. Many of his works are small oils of boats, bathers, and other Island scenes.
Mr. Vanlandingham, who, after only a few years of showing here, has earned a reputation as one of the most sought after Island artists, works in two distinct styles. He is best known for his luminous, spare Vineyard landscapes but more recently he has been working with acrylics creating almost three dimensional work. “I physically cut and manipulate the paint once it’s dry and collage it back on,” he explains, “I’m actually building the surface. I’m the carpenter, stone mason, landscaper actually building the scene.”
Mr. Vanlandingham shows his more contemporary work at Piknik Art & Apparel in Edgartown. Up until the Dragonfly Gallery in Oak Bluffs closed at the end of this past summer, his more traditional oils were on display there. Both he and Mr. Crimmens’s work can be found at Piknik in the summer and, currently, at the Piknik pop up store on Newbury Street in Boston. The two artists became close friends through their association with that gallery, although they had known each other for some time. Mr. Crimmen has been collecting his fellow artist’s work for the past few years.
A large colorful eye-catching abstract by Ms. Tuttle graces the entrance to the gallery. Other works of hers — moody combinations of altered photograph and painting — are scattered throughout the other rooms. A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Ms. Tuttle met Mr. Vanlandingham while they were both pursuing MFAs in fine arts at the Savannah College of Art and Design. She moved here last fall and both she and Mr. Vanlandingham sell their work at the Vineyard Artisans Festival in the summer.
“She was looking for a space to paint,” says Mr. Vanlandingham, “I offered her one of the studio spaces. I’ve been trying to encourage her to paint more. She’s new to the arts scene on the Vineyard, and I thought this would be a good introduction for her.”
Mr. Vanlandingham was previously working out of a small rented space in West Tisbury which he will maintain as a studio for making frames and stretching the canvases for his often large scale paintings. Mr. Crimmen was using a rental apartment as a studio but had been encouraged by Mr. Vanlandingham and fellow artist Traeger diPietro to start creating larger work and so was in search of a bigger space. He was alerted by Mr. Serusa of the availability of the DeSorcy owned building back in August and quickly recruited the other three artists.
All four partners have found it exciting and inspirational to be working in a shared space. Although they only just opened the gallery portion of the building, they have been working in their individual studios since shortly after they took over the space in October.
“It keeps you motivated,” says Mr. Crimmen.
Mr. Vanlandingham concurs. “I think that’s what we’re most excited about — the energy of working in the same space with other artists,” he says. “I want to bring that energy back to the Vineyard and bring in other artists.”
That’s all part of the plan for the future of The Workshop. “I envision us as having the opportunity to do a lot of different things,” Mr.Vanlandingham says. “We’ve thrown around ideas of having it become a kind of artist collective. It keeps evolving all the time. I’d like to have an artist-in-residence program at some time. We plan to rent it out to artists to put on shows to provide a venue for people who don’t show in galleries on the Island.”
Adds Mr. Crimmen, “we think it’s going to be a good thing for artists on the Island. We hope to give other artists a hand. It’s so hard to get in a gallery around here.”
The Workshop will be open on weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm), and by chance, until the end of the year. The partners will be hosting a show of small works by a variety of artists some time before Christmas and may possibly extend their hours for that show.
Anyone interested in renting the space can contact the owners through their Facebook page — The Workshop Martha’s Vineyard.