After two Saturday afternoon classes at Featherstone Center for the Arts, the Vineyard Independence Partnership (VIP) put together an exhibit at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse’s art space. A reception took place last Saturday, March 3, where some of the members performed — Alexander Campbell did a spot-on impression of Forrest Gump, Colin Kennedy got the audience to join in his bird calls, and Laura Jahn didn’t miss a beat performing the Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian.”
VIP has been around for more than 30 years, and describes itself on the group’s website as “a partnership of individuals with disabilities, their family members, and friends, working — and playing — to ensure that opportunities for a full life on Martha’s Vineyard are available to all.”
Artist Judith Drew Schubert ran the first class, and Tessa Permar facilitated the classes with help from VIP treasurer Allison Burger. Permar has a creative background in dance and theater choreography and directing. Her father is a painter, so, she said, she grew up with a deep admiration for art.
“Some of the VIP members are coworkers of mine at Chilmark Chocolates,” Permar said. “It was the brainchild of the members to do some kind of art classes and then a show, and I happened to walk in at the right moment.”
Permar said they couldn’t have done it without Featherstone; the art center rented the Pebble Studio to them so that they would have space to create the art. Schubert presented the VIP members with that first sheet of blank white paper, Permar said.
“We wanted to try two-dimensional art first — watercolor, marker, and pen,” Permar said. “We covered the page with watercolor and then outlined shapes. The second week we continued that and people started looking through books of fish and birds, and I brought some collage work. We had magazines donated by the West Tisbury library. That second time around, the VIP artists were able to take more initiative and go in the direction they wanted to take their art.”
Hosting an artists’ reception and exhibit at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse was a logical next step; playhouse artistic and executive director MJ Bruder Munafo leads a weekly hourlong drama club with VIP members at the playhouse during the off-season. She offered to host the exhibit at the art space, and it will run through March 29. It was also her idea to feature the work in a silent auction, raising funds for the VIP program and some cash for the artists, with a small percentage going to the playhouse.
“MJ brought it up as a way of raising funds and generating interest and income,” Permar explained. “There’s a minimum bid of $25 to $35. People can go anytime during the month and bid on a piece. If someone really wants to buy it immediately and not do the silent auction, there’s a buy-now price.”
Permar said she’d love to do more, and expand into three-dimensional art with mosaics, collage, and clay. VIP members can either work on their art at home or come and work in a large group setting. She said about 25 people turned out for the classes, including some parents and people who support the VIP members.
“In the middle of winter, we expected five or six people maybe, and we had at least 15 at each workshop,” Permar said. “Not everybody exhibited their art; you don’t have to feel pressure, so if you want to come just to practice, you can.”