This past June, the Martha’s Vineyard Center for the Visual Arts (MVCVA) Art Gallery Cooperative opened a gallery, named simply Art Gallery, on Dukes County Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Twelve artists were invited to show their work in exchange for manning the gallery and paying for advertising.
This Saturday, Oct. 7, the new gallery will expand its reach by hosting an Art Yard Sale, which will give artists from all over the Island the chance to offer discounted artwork and art supplies. All of the gallery’s member artists will all also participate.
Holly Alaimo, president of MVCVA, reached out to the Vineyard artist community with an invitation to show their work, specifically affordably priced pieces, along with their unused paint, secondhand frames, photography equipment, and more.
The Art Gallery members cover a range of media, from painting (Marston Clough, Renee Balter, Janice Frame, Liz Taft, Lowely Finnerty, and Genevieve Jacobs) to photography (Janet Woodcock and Peggy Turner Zablotny) to ceramics (Heather Goff) to woodwork (Bill O’Callaghan) to clothing design (Nancy Shaw Cramer and the Kenworthy team of Marlene DiStefano and Randi Sylvia).
Although the artists have enjoyed varying levels of success in the gallery’s freshman season, all found the experience rewarding. “I think it really worked well for some people,” says Ms. Alaimo. “It’s a year where we were still being discovered. Everybody participated. It’s been a very positive, very supportive group.”
The gallery helped revive the summer Arts District strolls, participating in three events in July, August, and September. Ms. Alaimo, who ran the former Dragonfly Fine Arts Gallery on Dukes County Avenue, was encouraged to see a rejuvenation of the district. “Our strolls were great,” she says. “The whole neighborhood came alive.”
Ms. Balter, who creates folk art–inspired paintings of Oak Bluffs scenes, and who lives nearby, was pleased with the community’s response to the new undertaking. “It was just an all-around great experience,” she says. “That neighborhood had a lot of promise. Then things changed, and there was a bit of an empty feeling. This summer it felt like the neighborhood was pulling together again. I’m just hoping things will keep going in this direction.”
For the yard sale, Ms. Balter will be offering some older paintings, a portable easel, frames, and mat cutters.
Plein-air painter Liz Taft will offer frames and what she describes as “oldies but goodies.” “They’re paintings that I really like a lot, but it’s time to let them go,” she says. During the two week stretch when her work took over the smaller storefront space reserved for the gallery’s featured artist, she hosted an opening and invited friends and fans.
Ms. Taft has had experience selling directly to the public before, having been a participant in the Vineyard Artisans Festivals for many years. However, she learned a lot from spending time manning the gallery. “What was new for me was talking about other people’s work and listening to how people responded,” she says. “It was really interesting to learn about other artists’ processes. It’s visually interesting to see how people come in and they really respond to one particular artist. I like that.”
She also took away an important lesson from the experience. “One thing I learned is that I would not want to run my own gallery. I’m much happier being out in nature.”
Lowely Finnerty has been able to work at her art while running the shop. She sets up a table with a drop cloth and creates during downtime. She has enjoyed the social aspect of working at the gallery. “The Saturday strolls were especially fun,” she says. “They were a great opportunity to network with people. They were so dynamic and fun — almost urban — as urban as you can get on Martha’s Vineyard. I think the gallery was, in part, the MVCVA board’s attempt to rejuvenate the arts district.”
Ms. Finnerty will be selling older pieces at the yard sale. “If a painting hasn’t sold for two or three years, I’ll pop it out of the frame and archive it,” she says. “I don’t want to be the world’s biggest collector of my own work. I’ve had my time with it, and I can sell it at a lower price. The sale will give people the opportunity to pick something up at a super low price.”
Other artists who will be participating in the yard sale include Basia Jaworska, Nancy Vietor, Linda Carnegie, Debby Rosenthal, Valentine Estabrook, Linda Ziegler, and more.
The Art Gallery and will reopen next spring.