Authors Posts by Brooks Robards

Brooks Robards

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From left, Alfred Molina as George and John Lithgow as Ben. —Photo by Jeong Park, Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Love at the movies usually concerns the romantic life of young couples. Not so with Ira Sachs’s new film, Love Is Strange. This director’s love story explores and celebrates the long-abiding love of two aging men, Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina). The film, which opens this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, offers viewers an unusually rich view of urban domestic life. Love Is Strange opens on the morning of Ben and George’s wedding in Manhattan. The camera work quickly signals that while this couple’s world may not include the usual Hollywood signifiers — movie-star good looks and youthful, toned bodies — it seeks out unusual perspectives and lingers in unexpected places. The film lovingly immerses the viewer in the urban landscape that is so much a part of this gay couple’s life together, in some of the ways Woody Allen has paid tribute to New York in his movies. By relying on Chopin and other classical music, the soundtrack reinforces yet another element of the couple’s world, since George is a piano teacher and choral director.

The post-wedding party, held at Ben and George’s co-op apartment, uses none of the clichés so often found in movie versions of parties. Instead it introduces us to the couple’s distinctive extended family. Ben’s nephew Elliott (Darren Burrows), a filmmaker, is there with his novelist wife Kate (Marisa Tomei) and their teenaged son, Joey (Charlie Tahan), whose remarkably subtle performance will make the viewer realize how inauthentic most movie teenagers are. On George’s side are Ted (Cheyenne Jackson) and Roberto (Manny Perez), the gay cop couple that are George and Ben’s next-door neighbors. The slightly kookie Mindy (Christina Kirk) is significant primarily for living outside of Manhattan, in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. What is important about Ben and George’s extended family is that they are recognizable less for their connections to gay culture than to any middle class world.

The classic model for romantic comedy keeps its putative couple at odds, or at least apart, at the start and ends with their happy union. Mr. Sachs up-ends that convention by starting with marital bliss and finishing with separation. The switch is particularly appropriate for a gay couple, since Ben and George have already lived together happily and successfully for many years, while their marriage marks society’s recent legitimization of gay marriage. The twist that separates Ben and George physically, if not emotionally, situates the story in the real world, where bigotry rears its ugly head even in the wake of social change.

George loses his job at a Catholic school because his marriage defies Church doctrine. Like so many other Americans, George and Ben (who is retired) are then tossed on the shoals of economic distress. They must sell their co-op apartment and move in with family and friends. The world of New York real estate being the space-challenged place that it is, no one has enough room to house both members of the couple. Ben, a chatty amateur painter, ends up with his nephew and family, sharing bunk beds with a resentful Joey, and workspace with novelist Kate. George, who favors solitary pleasures, finds himself on the sofa of his ex-neighbors, Ted and Roberto, who always seem to have a party in the making. The friction caused by overcrowded living arrangements generates plenty of gentle humor.

Love Is Strange’s masterful acting, headlined by Lithgow, Molina, and Tomei, brings rare depth to this story of domestic life. It is a quintessentially modern story, one told with care and great affection rather than sentimentality or melodrama.

Love Is Strange, Friday, October 24, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, October 25, 4 p.m, M.V. Film Center. For more information, see mvfilmsociety.com.

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"Dog Day Afternoon." —Art by Harry Seymour

The “Art in the Stacks” series brings the work of Oak Bluffs artist Harry Seymour to the Vineyard Haven Library during the month of October. Eight of Mr. Seymour’s works, created in scratchboard, pastel, and egg tempura, are on display in the library’s lower level. Mr. Seymour’s distinctive style and choice of subject matter are inspired by circumstances that make his work unique among Island artists. Allergies have kept Mr. Seymour from painting in more traditional media like oil, pastel, and watercolor.

He has chosen to display pieces “in new techniques that I’m very excited about,” the artist said in a telephone interview last weekend.

Mr. Seymour has applied his artistic visions to scratchboard for some time. This medium employs masonite boards coated with white clay, covered by black ink. The artist etches images that emerge in white against a black background. “It is the only art painting that is subtractive and not additive,” Mr. Seymour said.

While other artists also use scratchboard, he has expanded the technique to include color by incorporating pastel wax and pan pastels. “This method is evolving, but I am excited by outcomes and the capacity to synchronize tools, paints, and surface to form a work of art that is as much about the process as the outcome,” Mr. Seymour said in a recent interview with Arts and Ideas magazine.

"The Hug." —Art by Harry Seymour
“The Hug.” —Art by Harry Seymour

The work in the current exhibit at the Vineyard Haven Library represents a range of subjects and techniques he has worked on over the years. Mr. Seymour draws on the culture and landscape of Martha’s Vineyard for inspiration, as illustrated by “Dog Day Afternoon,” which depicts a sleepy dog stretched out on a summer porch. In addition, he incorporates narrative elements of African-American culture as it is found on Island and in larger contexts. “The Hug” draws on the artist’s color techniques to convey the image of a boy hugging a grandfatherly figure, for what Mr. Seymour calls “the antithesis of detachment and need to embrace matters on and beyond Island shores.”

A Professor Emeritus of Speech and Hearing Science at UMass Amherst, Mr. Seymour divides his time between Oak Bluffs and his home in the Pioneer Valley. His scratch paintings, also called sgraffito, are created using microscopic medical pins that allow him to achieve a greater intricacy of detail than conventional use of the medium. The artist’s egg tempera paintings differ from those of others because he uses a greater variety of brushes, which he pats on the surface for a pointillist effect.

Mr. Seymour also exhibits his work at the Harry Seymour Studio at 66 Pondview Drive in Oak Bluffs.

Harry Seymour: Art in the Stacks, Vineyard Haven Public Library, through October. For hours and further information, see vhlibrary.org.

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Ben Affleck in "Gone Girl." —Courtesy 20th Century Fox

Director David Fincher’s latest neo-noir film, Gone Girl, plays this weekend at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center and Entertainment Cinemas in Edgartown. The Film Center will also present three foodie films shown in conjunction with the Martha’s Vineyard Food and Wine Festival. Le Chef and Chef –– both about cooks –– return to the Film Center, along with Somm, a documentary about four sommeliers trying to pass their field’s master exam.

Gone Girl is adapted from the popular novel of the same title by Gillian Flynn. In the movie, Mr. Fincher puts a new spin on the black widow genre made famous by Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction, (1987). The difference is that instead of looking at an affair gone bad like Fatal Attraction, Gone Girl dissects a marriage on the rocks. Ben Affleck plays a laid-back magazine writer, Nick Dunne, who falls in love with and marries Amy, played by Rosamund Pike, who is the subject of a successful series of books written by her parents.

After Nick’s mother contracts cancer and both Nick and Amy lose their New York writing jobs, the couple moves to the small Missouri town of North Carthage, where Nick grew up. Amy is the powerhouse in the couple, and she uses her trust fund to buy a bar for her husband to run with his twin sister, Margo (Carrie Coon).

One day, Nick comes home and finds that Amy has disappeared. He calls the police, and soon a media circus is underway, with Nick looking more and more like the culprit who may have done away with Amy.

Entries from Amy’s diary suggest that the marriage has been deteriorating for some time. Bit by bit, evidence shows up that, after making Nick look like the bad guy, implicates Amy instead. The back-and-forth keeps viewers glued to their seats, puzzling over who did what and who will get away with murder. Subsidiary characters contribute to the mystery. Margo becomes an important ally to her brother, while Amy turns for help to a wealthy former boyfriend, Desi (Neil Patrick Harris).

The portrait Gone Girl creates of a marriage falling apart takes plenty of unexpected twists and turns. The media come across like vultures, feeding on the couple’s troubles and distorting the evidence of the case almost beyond recognition. Amy looms large as a powerhouse of deviousness and manipulation in contrast to her apparently easygoing husband. The ending of Gone Girl will leave the viewers scratching their heads about the games married couples play.

“Gone Girl,” Friday, October 17, 7:30 pm; Saturday, October 18, 4 p.m.; Sunday, October 19, 7:30 pm.

“Le Chef,” Thursday, October 16, 7:30 pm.

“Chef,” Friday, October 17, 4 pm.

“Somm,” Saturday, October 18, 7:30 p m; Sunday, October 19, 4 pm.

For more information, visit mvfilmcenter.com.

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"Sun Moon Barn Owl." —Art by Lanny McDowell

Vineyard Haven artist Lanny McDowell’s love for birds led him to devote much of his creative energy to avian photography in recent years. His new show at the West Tisbury Library puts his painterly talents back on the front burner.

Mr. McDowell has drawn from his newer work since he returned with gusto to painting in 2011, as well as throwing in a few of his old favorites. Vineyard art lovers may remember that Mr. McDowell built a reputation for painting portraits of waves that were on display at his West Tisbury Ott gallery before he closed it in 2007. But as the new exhibit illustrates, that represents only one area of work for this prolific painter.

“In the fall of 2011, I started painting like mad,” Mr. McDowell says. The work he produced during that period through June 2012 went on exhibit briefly at Tashmoo Springs. There, he showed a body of work that mixed abstraction and representational images like “Sun Moon Barn Owl,” a 2012 painting that consists of a 12- by 12-inch canvas of multicolored squares with the image of an airborne white owl superimposed over them. The combination prods the viewer to think about how the two forms feed off each other.

"Piers." —Art by Lanny McDowell
“Piers.” —Art by Lanny McDowell

Much of the pleasure of the West Tisbury Library exhibit comes in seeing the variety of styles Mr. McDowell explores. “Allen Farm Vista” is a purely representational painting in strong shades of green and gold with touches of blue and orange that dates from 2004, while “Piers,” a 2014 work, unites a series of representational images by placing them in squares within squares. “Rise Up” and “Delivery” are wave portraits that both date from 2007, before the artist turned toward avian photography, while in “Wave Remake,” from 2013, he returns to a wave portrait in a renewed integration of abstraction and representation.

A preoccupation with color unites Mr. McDowell’s many stylistic ventures, as he notes in a statement accompanying the West Tisbury Library show. “If I have one thread of continuity in my artwork over the years, it’s an infatuation with color. Color reaches me,” he says. “I might have been at home with many of the American abstract expressionists who celebrate expanses of resonant color.” His investigations of color through patterns of squares encourage the viewer to respond to the way colors feed each other.

"Allen Farm Vista." —Art by Lanny McDowell
“Allen Farm Vista.” —Art by Lanny McDowell

As those who receive his avian photographs online or in other venues know, Mr. McDowell’s fascination with birds has not lessened now that he has refocused on painting.  As he says, “My art –– paintings and avian photographs –– is about expressing awe of the wondrous life cycles that energize our planet and inspire us. I believe in the connectedness of all things, in respect for the forces of nature.”

“The Work of Painter and Photographer Lanny McDowell,” West Tisbury Free Public Library, West Tisbury, through October. For hours and information, see westtisburylibrary.org.

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Len Morris working with children on "The Same Heart," his newest film with his wife Georgia. —Photo by Steve Button

The Same Heart, Len and Georgia Morris’s latest documentary about children’s rights, will benefit this weekend from SHINE, a special three-day fundraising event in which 12 artists are selling their work at the West Tisbury home of Patricia Cliggott. Ms. Cliggott is the founder of Lovingkindnessmv, an organization that aids others, and a portion of the weekend’s sales will go to support completion of The Same Heart.

The film is the Morrises’ third documentary about abuses of the world’s children. The specific issue it addresses is how to end the poverty that underlies many, if not most, of the abuses children are subjected to. Tracing the visit of community organizer Geoffrey Bakuya to his home village, Shivagala, the film focuses on children in western Kenya. Many children in the village are raising themselves because their relatives have been lost to HIV/AIDS, and hunger is widespread.

“If you have the same heart in the whole world, the rich nations to support the poor nations, not exploit them, this is something we would like to see,” says Mr. Bakuya, whose words help provide the title for the documentary. Set in the background of his Kenyan village, The Same Heart establishes poverty as the problem underlying most others, with the world’s children, including some in the U.S., starving at the rate of 20,000 per day. Seven Nobel Peace Prize laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are interviewed. Vineyard summer resident and TV journalist Charlayne Hunter-Gault narrates the documentary.

After exploring the issue of child labor in Stolen Childhoods (2004) and the homelessness of street children in Rescuing Emmanuel (2009), in The Same Heart the Morrises turn to the question of how to end the poverty underlying these issues. The filmmakers’ odyssey dates back to 1998, when Mr. Morris’s friend Robin Romano, the late New York photojournalist, contacted him about doing a film on child labor. “Len dove in, and we never looked back,” says Ms. Morris. “We got hooked on children’s rights.”

“We’ve come to understand that our aid system is broken,” says Mr. Morris. “It’s the byproduct of pushing poverty to the bottom of the pile.” The answer that The Same Heart proposes is a “Robin Hood” tax, in which financial transactions worldwide would be taxed a small percentage to fund poverty programs.

In addition to Patricia Cliggott’s wearable art clothing, yak blankets and crystal jewelry, work by 10 other Vineyard artists will be for sale at Ms. Cliggott’s West Tisbury home. Lisa Magnarelli Magden will have charcoal drawings and wood pieces on display, and Susan Norton will sell her organic skincare products. Notecards from oil paintings by Lynn Whiting will be available, as well as handwoven cotton towels by Suzy Zell. Other products include Lily K. Morris’s large format landscape photos, Lily Jane Morris’s oil landscapes, Aquinnah Witham’s jackets made of Vietnamese silk and linen, Maria Hurwitz’s multi-media landscapes, Elizabeth Germain’s blessed rosemary oil, and Eric Carlsen’s crystals from Brazil and Madagascar. Maine artist Maisie Broom will join her Island colleagues to offer saltwater silk clothing, died leather, marbled canvas, and textile heliographic printings.

Mr. and Ms. Morris plan to record the film’s narration over the next two weeks, complete the sound mix with Jim Parr, and then begin distribution, including to organizations like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. They have also raised money for the project on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

SHINE will take place Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, October 11, 12, and 13, at 129 Indian Hill Rd. from 10 am to 8 pm. Along with their colleague Petra Lent McCarron, one of the film’s producers, the filmmakers will show a trailer from The Same Heart and answer questions daily during the event. For more information, go to thesameheart.com or lovingkindnessmv.com.  

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Ines Ramos attends Seed School at Native Seeds, in a scene from "Open Sesame." — Courtesy Open Sesame

“Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds,” a documentary about seed saving, comes to the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center on Friday, Oct. 3, in conjunction with the Living Local Harvest Festival. The West Tisbury Free Public Library, Island Grown Schools, and the FARM Institute are sponsoring the free film screening as part of their new community seed-library initiative, to be introduced at the Harvest Festival on Oct. 4.

The West Tisbury library will serve as a center for free locally-saved and -adapted seeds, as well as providing information about seed saving. “We are thrilled to be the host site of the seed library,” says West Tisbury library circulation assistant Amy Hoff. “We see this as an opportunity to collaborate with our community in its efforts to share knowledge and preserve resources.”

The focus in the first year will be on seeds from self-pollinated tomato, lettuce, and bean crops. “These plants are relatively easy to grow, and represent both wet and dry seed processing, providing a good overview of how to save seeds for beginners,” says Rebecca Sanders, garden manager at the FARM Institute.

Sheree Brown in a scene from "Open Sesame." — Courtesy Open Sesame
Sheree Brown in a scene from “Open Sesame.” — Courtesy Open Sesame

The documentary “Open Sesame” draws its title from the Middle Eastern folktale, “Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves,” in which the phrase “Open Sesame” serves as the password that opens a cave door where 40 thieves have stored their booty. The tale of these magical two words aptly fits a documentary about the ancient practice of seed saving, because sesame seeds are among the oldest oil-seed crops in the world, dating back at least 3,000 years. A drought-resistant survivor crop originating in sub-Saharan Africa and India, sesame has one of the highest oil contents of any known seed. It is indeed magical, and the theme of thievery fits the film’s focus on the loss of seed varieties in this country and other parts of the world due to the development of monoculture farming and the industrialization of agriculture by corporations like Monsanto.

Directed by M. Sean Kaminsky, “Open Sesame” interviews farmers and heirloom-seed advocates who oppose the growing dominance of GMO (genetically modified organism) seed stocks that have been patented by large agricultural corporations. The film provides shocking data on what is happening to this crucial component of our food supply. Ninety percent of our calories come from seeds, but 90 percent of the crop varieties of the past 100 years are now extinct. One example the film gives is how lettuce seeds have dropped from 497 varieties to 36. Heritage wheat, i.e. wheat grown from non-GMO seeds, is reaching extinction, yet modern GMO wheat varieties carry toxic levels of gluten.

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A scene from “Open Sesame” shows Rachel, Addie and Dave Nevitt on the Washington, DC District Court Steps. —Courtesy Open Sesame

One of the problems with hybrid GMO seeds is that they don’t reproduce. Instead they degenerate, in contrast with open-pollinated seeds. GMO-originated monocrops also require toxic petrochemical fertilizers, like the phosphate herbicide Roundup. A 1980 court decision gave agricultural corporations the right to patent GMO seeds. As a result, corporate seed accounts took over 82 percent of seed varieties, and seed varieties became licenses to use seeds temporarily instead of being available to all. One of the benefits of heirloom seed varieties is that they do better in climate change. “Open Sesame” gives viewers access to a wealth of information about seeds and what is happening to them.

Ken Greene, founder of the nation’s first community seed library and owner of the Hudson Valley Seed Library company, is one of the open-seed advocates interviewed in “Open Sesame.” He will lead a seed-saving workshop at the West Tisbury Agricultural Hall on Saturday, Oct. 4, at 1 pm. He will teach participants how to save seeds from the three foundational crops the West Tisbury library’s seed initiative will focus on during its first year. Members of the community are invited to bring locally grown, non-GMO tomatoes, bean pods, and dry lettuce flower stalks, as well as other types of open-pollinated seeds to the workshop. This workshop will be the first in a series, in addition to other educational events and seed celebrations planned over the next year. For more information or to join the Seed Library mailing list, email noli@islandgrown.org.

“Open Sesame: The Story of Seeds,” Friday, Oct. 3, 7:30 pm. Free. M.V. Film Center. mvfilmsociety.com.  

Ken Greene seed-saving workshop, Saturday, Oct. 4, 1 pm. West Tisbury Agricultural Hall. westtisburylibrary.org.

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Actress Lisa Carlehed in "The Fall."

Ten short films from around the world will play at the M.V. Film Center on Friday, Sept. 26, Saturday, Sept. 27, and Sunday, Sept. 28, as part of the 17th annual Manhattan Short Film Festival. Vineyard filmgoers, along with others in more than 250 movie theatres on six continents, will have the chance to vote for their favorite short and their favorite actor.

Combining live action, animation, and special effects, the finalists were drawn from 589 entries and 47 nations. A breeding ground for cinematic success, the Manhattan Short Film Festival has produced Oscar nominees and winners as well as other international prizewinners.

Animations by Sam Chou in "Crime."
Animations by Sam Chou in “Crime.”

From the Netherlands, director Ben Brand tells a particularly topical story in “97 Percent.” The central character chases a would-be romantic interest through his smartphone. American directors Alix Lambert and Sam Chou employ animation for their powerful graphic novel–style, episodic documentary “Crime — The Animated Story.” Ms. Lambert has already directed a full-length documentary on Russian prisons and written a book on crime. “We wanted each episode to showcase a completely different visual style to complement the stories being told,” Mr. Chou said in an interview with Manhattan Short founding director Nicholas Mason.

“On the Bridge,” an English finalist by Sameer Patel, develops an original premise derived from an actual event that took place on Waterloo Bridge in London. One man sees another getting ready to jump off the bridge and assumes he is trying to commit suicide. The reality is shockingly different, and offers a fascinating exploration of courage.

A scene from "Mend and Make Do."
A scene from “Mend and Make Do.”

Australian director James Croke’s “Shift” revolves around an inventor who develops a device that allows him to vanish from one location, then reappear in another. “The Fall,” by Norwegian director Andreas Thaulow, uses the visually potent premise of mountain climbers to narrate its story comparing two kinds of trust, between climbers and between lovers. “We had an experienced crew of climbers and experts in charge of safety,” Mr. Thaulow has said. “The trickiest part was to get the equipment safely to where it needed to be.”

Outer space provides the setting for French director Thierry Lorenzi’s film “ON/OFF.” “[Science fiction writer] Philip K. Dick is one of my influences,” he said. “I wanted ‘ON/OFF’ to feel like a science fiction novella.” The film was shot in a studio, and the director uses special effects to create the illusion of outer space. “La Carnada,” the Mexican entry by director Josh Soskin, addresses the hot-button topic of immigration. Although it’s a fiction film, the director based the film on his time living and traveling in Mexico since 2008. Shot on both sides of the border in Tijuana and Sonora, “La Carnada” uses the perspective of a teenager to narrate its story about immigration and smuggling.

Actor Lindsay Farris in "Shift."
Actor Lindsay Farris in “Shift.”

“Mend and Make Do,” another finalist from England by director Bexie Bush, combines animation and live action for its interview of one of the elderly women who were clients in Ms. Bush’s grandmother’s hairdressing salon. Describing life before and after World War II, Ms. Bush said, “Lyn Schofield was one of my favorite customers, who would burst through the door every Tuesday exclaiming, ‘I’m here’ in a tuneful announcement with a giant smile on her face.”

A mother’s encounter in an elevator with two U.S. Army officers in “The Bravest, the Boldest” provides the theme of American director Moon Molson’s short. The news these officers have come to deliver is not something any mother would want to hear. The director evokes the setting in a New York’s housing project with shadowy tones of yellow, orange, and green. “Rhino Full Throttle,” the title of German director Erik Schmitt’s entry, reflects its use of magical-realist production values to explore a man’s romantic encounter with a mysterious young woman in his search for the soul of a city. Mr. Schmitt’s walks in Berlin provided the foundation for this unusual tale. He explains that he and a friend developed a variety of analog film tricks like stop-motion, pixilation, and playing with perspectives to convey his emotional story.

The 10 shorts range in length from eight to 17 minutes. Each filmgoer will be provided with a ballot to vote for his or her favorite short and actor, and the local winner will be announced after the two screenings. The worldwide winner will be announced by the Manhattan Short Film Festival on Monday, Oct. 5.

Manhattan Shorts Festival: Friday, Sept. 26, Saturday, Sept. 27, and Sunday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m. M.V. Film Center, Tisbury Marketplace, Vineyard Haven. Tickets $12 (MV Film Society members $9; 14 and under $7). For tickets and information, see mvfilmsociety.com.

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After 20 years, Nancy Shaw Cramer, shown here with a painting by Leslie Baker, will close her Vineyard Haven gallery. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Shaw Cramer, the Island’s go-to gallery for contemporary art and crafts, has posted its closing sign after 20 years. The final day is Nov. 30, and most, if not all, of this Vineyard Haven gallery’s remaining holdings are on sale.

“Other people will come to the fore,” Nancy Shaw Cramer, who runs her second-floor Main Street gallery primarily by herself, says. “The problem is the scarcity of contemporary art on the Island.” Although Ms. Cramer invited the Island artists she represents to take over the gallery, turning it into a collaborative venture, they opted not to take that route. The result will be a major gap in the Island art scene.

Ms. Shaw Cramer, who grew up in Michigan and earned a degree in interior design— specifically space design — from Michigan State, began her career in art as a tapestry weaver. She became one of the top ten in the country, and sold more than 100 floor tapestries before opening her gallery. Her former husband’s career was in marketing, and as a result, she lived all over the country before settling on Martha’s Vineyard, where “the vibes were right.” She chose Vineyard Haven because she was living there and wanted to be able to walk to work. “I felt this to be a year-round town, unlike Edgartown,” she says. “I didn’t know anyone, but sometimes that can be an advantage.”

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Art is on sale at the Shaw Cramer Gallery, which closes permanently Nov. 30; shown is a sculpture by Heather Sommers. —Photo by Michael Cummo

“I love the puzzle,” Ms. Shaw Cramer says. “I’m a designer at heart, so figuring out the business, the display, working with all the personalities, and being part of the art community have been extremely satisfying.” She has also helped design programs for the Island Community Chorus, and helped develop Vineyard Haven as a cultural district, including its Friday night art walks.

At the start, when Ms. Shaw Cramer was planning the gallery, she looked for how-to books but couldn’t find any. Instead, she enrolled in a SCORE workshop at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. SCORE is a national nonprofit organization for promoting small businesses. She found that her planning echoed the advice SCORE talks were suggesting. “It gave me an enormous boost in confidence,” she says. “I knew I was on the right track.” Although she took no salary, she ended the first year with all her bills paid. She listened to advice from friends, in particular that she needed to support her gallery, not the other way around. So her next step was to branch out, which she did by consulting on interior design planning for color and space and by making designer pillows. “I just hung in there,” she says. “And that brought in just enough.”

Initially, the Shaw Cramer Gallery filled a gap in the Island art community by concentrating on fine crafts: pottery, glass, weaving, jewelry, baskets, and sculpture, to name a few. Eventually, Ms. Shaw Cramer added painting to the gallery repertoire. “Six of the original artists are still with me,” she says. “A great number have been in the gallery for 10 years. Four hundred artists have been represented. It’s a big number.” As the gallery finishes its final season, there are 16 Islanders, including Ms. Shaw Cramer, represented, along with a number of off-Island artists.

Each year, Ms. Shaw Cramer tried to raise the bar and do better. The gallery’s success reflects that commitment to excellence. “This is a world of details,” she says. That includes finding the right location for displaying some artists, whether on a wall, a pedestal, or a shelf. She has always made sure that when a piece of art sells, something new goes into its place. Her new artists often served as a springboard of energy, and Ms. Shaw Cramer always made sure she showed them to the best possible advantage. Many galleries are closing across the nation, according to Ms. Cramer. She believes younger people are not necessarily opening galleries –– a business that requires a lot of work –– and that they don’t have the same interest in art as her generation. She thinks collaborative galleries will be the sign of the times.

“I’m sad about the end, but I’m very excited,” Ms. Cramer says. “I try not to think of the last day. That makes me sad. I try to remain upbeat.” Last winter she finished a tapestry, designed and sold nine wrap-around coats, and made 80 pillows. Those completed projects told her the timing was right. She anticipates four different kinds of work in her future. She’ll continue to make pillows and sell them at mini-trunk shows. “I’ve always sewn,” she says. “I find it peaceful.” Ms. Cramer will also continue to make signature clothing, like wrap-around coats and tunics. Rugs will be part of her work agenda, although she’ll use less complex designs. “That’s what I’m saying this year,” she says. She also is working on a new weaving design. “I’m going to work smaller to see if I can make this happen,” she says. “I’ll look for a national show that is exhibit-oriented. I’ll see if I still measure up design-wise. That would be very satisfying.”

Shaw Cramer Gallery may be closing in November, but that does not mean Ms. Cramer will walk away from the artists who have been her clients. “I worry about where my artists will go,” she says. “Next summer I’ll be doing a few mini-events, and some could involve other Island artists.” She will also continue to critique artists’ work. She’s looking forward to road trips, and plans to drop in on galleries along the way: “I’ll be seeing if the situation is right for any of the artists from the gallery.” And as if she didn’t already have enough projects planned, Ms. Shaw Cramer has written one screenplay and has plans for another.

So many of her friendships have developed from the artists she represents and from her customers. “They’ve been coming in to say goodbye to the gallery,” she says. “People who make things don’t usually retire. We just make different things.”

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A scene from "Granite Stoke," one of the Surf Night screenings. —Courtesy TMVFF

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival in Chilmark has joined forces with the California-based High Line Festival of Surfing to offer Surf Night, a day and evening dedicated to surfing. This celebratory and community-oriented event on Saturday, Sept. 20, is free and open to all. It includes surfing lessons, music, films, art, and food.

Community and family surfing lessons will begin at noon at a location to be announced so that they can take advantage of the best wave conditions. The event is not limited to surfers, though. The beach gathering is open to all. Surfboards will be available at no charge at the Green Room, 6k6 Surf, and the Boneyard Surf Shop. A sunset potluck dinner will begin at 5:30 pm in the Chilmark Community Center with music by Alex Karalekas and friends, and the photographs of Ian Durkin will be on exhibit. Three short surfing films will follow, starting at 7 pm. A dock dance at Memorial Wharf in Edgartown will round out the evening’s events at 8:30 pm.

Planning for Surf Night began last year after MVFF managing director Brian Ditchfield bumped into High Line Surf Festival founder Ari Lurie at Morning Glory Farm. Based in Mill Valley, Calif., Mr. Lurie spends the fall on the Vineyard surfing and fishing with his wife and daughter. Once he met MVFF founder Thomas Bena, a 24-year surfing veteran, the two caught waves and began planning for Surf Night. “Surfers around the world speak the same language,” says Mr. Lurie. “It’s the same religion. Surf Night is really an open evening because that’s the nature of the sport.”

“I have been a fan of his for a couple years,” Mr. Lurie says of the New York-based surfing photographer Mr. Durkin. “A lot of his photography is based on the trips he takes with his friends up and down the East and West coasts.”

“It’s basically a celebration of the ocean,” Mr. Bena said in a telephone interview last weekend. The event also reflects the sense of community that characterizes the surfing world around the globe. Twenty people, age six to 60, had signed up for lessons by last weekend. There will be a variety of instructors for surfers at all levels of the sport.

Mr. Bena has selected three of the High Line Festival’s best films to screen at Surf Night. “High line” is a surfing term that references riding in the top third of a wave. The film “Granite Stoke” describes the surfing scene in New Hampshire, where a mere 18 miles of coastline and frigid winter temperatures still foster an active surfing community. The film’s title reflects New Hampshire’s label as the Granite State and the surfing term for the state of mind surfing inspires. Director Dylan Ladds will lead a discussion after the screening.

The 68-minute film program also includes “The Gathering,” a 22-minute Australian short that profiles the social and environmental activist surfer Dave Rastovich. The third film of the evening, “Catch It,” is about a Frenchwoman who spends her time surfing in Norway.

“It’s a very organic thing,” Mr. Bena says. “Music, art, and food are a big part of what we do.”

The Vineyard does not rank as a top surf destination, because of its lack of consistent waves and cold water temperatures. But Surf Night offers something for everyone, no matter the skill level. One of the advantages of the event’s surfing lessons is to teach beginners surfing etiquette. Novices may not realize that “dropping in,” the term for taking the same wave as another surfer, is dangerous to both. “That’s where we’ll begin,” says Mr. Bena. One important aim of Surf Night is to provide surfing education.

“It made sense to bring what we do in Mill Valley to the Island,” Mr. Lurie says. “We all go through the same trials and tribulations of trying to surf all year round.” He describes the surfing community as very bonded, with plenty of stories to tell. “Thomas and I really want to do this every fall,” he says. “The hope is that it becomes a really special gathering for the Island and surfing communities.”

For more information and to sign up for Surf Night, see tmvff.org.

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Sunrise, West Chop, Tisbury. Photo by Vineyard Colors.

Vineyard seasons, colors, weather, houses, animals, birds, and boats — Moira Fitzgerald and Yann Meersseman have photographed them all, and plenty of other Vineyard subjects, for Vineyard Colors, a photo project they started in September 2010. The West Tisbury library will display 365 of their handsome and evocative images, in a two-floor exhibit, throughout the month of September.

The Oak Bluffs couple, who have been together for 10 years, began distributing newspapers to Island retail outlets in 2009 as a way to supplement the recession-battered income from their professional careers. Ms. Fitzgerald is an architect, and Mr. Meersseman, who is of French Belgian extraction, works as a computer consultant. Starting at 3:45 am, they deliver 16 different newspapers to 50 outlets in summer and 30 in winter. It takes them roughly three hours in-season, and two in winter.

In 2010, when friends visited from off-Island and Mr. Meersseman took them on an Island tour, he remarked how beautiful so many of the spots they were visiting looked at dawn. The friends suggested he take photos and email them. That’s how the Vineyard Colors project began.

From then on, the couple took photographs daily and emailed them to what started as a list of 20 family members and friends. The number quickly grew to 1,000, and then they began posting their photos on Facebook. “We’re hooked,” says Mr. Meersseman. Prints are sold at the Island Images gallery in Oak Bluffs and on notecards throughout the Island. The Vineyard Colors website carries 5,600 of the photos, and the couple expects purchases of prints in a variety of sizes will be available online starting this week. Realtors have liked their photographs enough that they have hired the couple to photograph real estate listings.

Neither Mr. Meersseman nor Ms. Fitzgerald has ever trained as a photographer. Mr. Meersseman said he had never picked up a camera before the project, although Ms. Fitzgerald has had darkroom experience. While they started with point-and-shoot pocket cameras, each now uses a Sony A77 digital camera, with wide-angle, telephoto, and regular lenses. One rule they have followed is to avoid including people in their images. With only a few kayakers and fishermen out at dawn, it’s not a hard rule to follow. One photo in the exhibit, however, includes the shadows of the two photographers.

“We rarely shoot in black and white,” Mr. Meersseman says. In the exhibit, only one photograph, of the Capawock Theatre in Vineyard Haven, is in black and white. Landscapes range from Katama Bay to Pecoy Point Preserve, Nashaquita Pond, and Squibnocket Beach. Most –– but not all –– of the photos are horizontal, and they include shots of weather vanes, gargoyles from Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, watering pails, flowers, a wagon, an ivy-covered VW, and even the reflection on a shiny auto bumper. All is fair game, and every image contributes to the record they are making of the Vineyard’s appeal.

The couple shoots several hundred photos each day. “That’s the secret,” Mr. Meersseman says. “The more pictures you take, the more chances you have there is a good one.”

“It’s always a challenge to get a good picture, especially in bad weather,” Ms. Fitzgerald says. “Things look different in different weather.” The library exhibit features one picture for each day of the year, although the year may vary. “As it’s evolved, I think you can see that we’ve gotten better,” Mr. Meersseman says. Three friends, Sue Hammerland, Brenda Hughes, and Jane McTeigue, acted as photo editors, sorting through the shots and selecting one for each day. “People like to look for the picture on their birthday,” West Tisbury library circulation assistant Jennifer Tseng says.

A Vineyard Colors book may be in the works soon. Mr. Meersseman says that one of the comments they have been getting is that the number of photos in the exhibit is a little overwhelming. “So, why not a book? It’s a good winter project,” Ms. Fitzgerald says.

Vineyard Colors: 365 Days, by Moira Fitzgerald and Yann Meersseman, will be on display at the West Tisbury library through September. The artists will speak at the West Tisbury Library on Thursday, September 25 at 5 pm. See westtisburylibrary.org for more information.