The Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard has announced that siblings Frank, Heidi, and Peter Dunkl of Chilmark will receive this year’s Creative Living Award. Designed to “encourage fine craftsmanship, creativity, and ingenuity in many fields,” the award recognizes Islanders for their efforts to “enhance and preserve the quality of life on the Vineyard forever,” according to a press release from the Permanent Endowment.
The Dunkls moved to their 23-acre property in Chilmark full-time in 1971, after having grown up in New Rochelle, N.Y. The family utilized libraries and first-hand observation to feed their curiosity, developing a broad portfolio of skills in the process, according to the release. They became known by Island homeowners and contractors for their ability to create unusual fabrications in wood, metal, almost any material, with distinctive gates, walkways, benches, and arbors popping up surprisingly on many properties, both public and private, around the Island. They are also accomplished musicians.
The three siblings founded and ran Chilmark Spring Water for many years, using a virgin spring they tapped along the banks of Mill Brook, which runs through their property.
Frank Dunkl, the youngest, told The Times that they were happy to be part of something that helps the Island community. When asked about their ingenuity and notoriously simple lifestyle, he said, “Well, to say we’re old-fashioned fuddy-duddies is probably more appropriate.”
To determine the winner of the Creative Living Award, executive director of the Permanent Endowment Emily Bramhall wrote in an email, “we review the original letter of the gift from Ruth Redding, who established the fund in honor of her friend Ruth Bogan. We ask for nominations from the public, and in addition, all our board members have this in the backs of their minds during the year. At a summer board meeting, we have a lively discussion about our nominees and agree on a recipient.”
There is a $1,000 honorarium that accompanies the award, which is a hand-chosen Island rock, signifying the permanence of the endowment.
“I think Ruth Bogan and the Dunkls would have been fine friends had they known one another,” Ms. Bramhall wrote. “Ruth Bogan was a resourceful, creative, entrepreneurial woman. She never met a problem without courage, intelligence, and ingenuity. The Dunkls, individually and collectively, embody her conservation ethics, her artistic interests, and her can-do approach to life. They are wonderful examples of the spirit of this award.”
A celebration of the Dunkls and the presentation of the Creative Living Award will be held in late November.