Authors Posts by Gwyn McAllister

Gwyn McAllister


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"It's Me" in Oak Bluffs is offering 50% off all merchandise. —Photo by Gwyn McAllister

Christopher Columbus earned fame for his legendary sail to the new land. Now, Columbus Day is associated with sales of another kind. With a number of Vineyard stores closing for the season and many more making room for winter items, Columbus Day weekend is a great time to shop for bargains. Here are some of the sales we discovered on an exploratory circumnavigation of the Island.

Vineyard Haven

Now is a great time to check out C.B. Stark‘s vast selection of fine jewelry, Island charms, and watches. Everything (except for some lines by Vineyard designers) is 20 percent off.

Alley Cat will also have a 20 percnet store-wide sale for the weekend, with summer clothing and shoes reduced to 50 percent off. You can always find something fun and unique among the racks, shoe shelves, and jewelry case at this gem of a Vineyard Haven boutique.

Juliska’s top floor outlet is always full of bargains. This weekend’s special sale has everything upstairs going for 50-75 percent off. Discontinued lines of dishes, pillows, and more are deeply discounted.


This is a great time to shop at one of the Island’s most popular jewelry stores. Claudia — at both its Edgartown and Vineyard Haven locations — features lines from noted jewelry designers (David Yurman, Pandora, and many more) and jewelry by local artisans, as well as perfume, bags, and more, and this weekend almost everything is 20 percent off.

Bryn Walker’s back sale room is almost as spacious as the front area of the store. There are always lots of bargains to be found on their comfortable yet stylish cotton, linen, and other luxe fabric designs. For the holiday weekend, the Edgartown location’s sale will expand to the entire stock, including brand-new items, making everything 10–75 percent off. Bryn Walker Vineyard Haven has a fantastic sale section, too.

Outrageous will be closing for the season at the end of the month, and they’re clearing out their stock of unique women’s fashions, shoes and accessories. Practically everything in the store is half-off this weekend.

Vintage Jewelry features some old and some new costume jewelry along with handbags, scarves and all sorts of cool vintage and retro finds. It’s a great place to browse and this weekend all merchandise is 20–50 percent off.

Rags’s annual Columbus Day sale is a popular destination for fans of their pretty, preppy women’s fashion. While the summer stuff is deeply discounted (there are racks of long-sleeved dresses in fun prints for $39) even the newest arrivals are included in the storewide 30 percent off sale. Check out lots of new arrivals from Yala, Dizzy Lizzy, and Gretchen Scott. Even the cashmere is on sale, and Lucky Jeans are 50 percent off. Stock up for the winter.

The men can find great bargains too, at the League of Gentlemen, where all of their vintage inspired clothes (except the tees) are 50 percent off.

Oak Bluffs

Galadriel’s will have a 20 percent storewide sale all weekend. Jewelry galore, plus crystals, beads, shells, and all sorts of interesting little finds can be discovered in this pretty shop which is great for browsing or shopping early for stocking stuffers.

It’s Me has had a 50 percent off storewide sale going since the end of the summer. Now is the last chance to check out their fun and trendy collection of women’s clothing and accessories. There are plenty of sweaters and ponchos for the upcoming chilly weather, but the store will close for the season as of Columbus Day.

Eastaway will also close its doors for the season after this weekend.  Their entire stock of men’s and women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories is at least 50 percent off.

Craftworks is featuring discounts on a few different lines for the holiday weekend. Echo of the Dreamer jewelry, Kinzig lamps, and Sticks furniture is all 20 percent off. There’s always plenty to admire at this eclectic shop chock full of jewelry, housewares and more by American artisans.


Pandora’s Box in Menemsha is hosting their popular annual end-of-season sale this weekend. Check out their great selection of winter fashion, including shoes and boots.

Don’t see your favorite store on the list? Check out our weekly list of Martha’s Vineyard retail sales.

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Vineyard Haven Harbor. —Photo by Michael Blanchard

A newly published book of photos features stunning shots from all around the Vineyard, focusing on quiet places, spectacular skies, sunrises, sunsets, moonlit nights and nature in all her glory. But Michael Blanchard’s book Fighting for My Life isn’t all about pretty pictures. It’s a testimony to the life he has discovered since getting sober five years ago.

“The Vineyard is my spiritual home,” Mr. Blanchard said in a recent phone interview. He works as the chief operating officer for a health care company in Maine but spends every weekend at the Edgartown home that he shares with his wife, Linda. “I live on the rocky coast of Maine, but I don’t want to sit there in the evening and edit Maine photos. I can spend four or five hours messing with these [Vineyard] photos to make it feel like I felt when I visited there.”

Mr. Blanchard begins the memoir intro to the book with a chapter titled, The End. It details the a downward spiral that terminated in his third DUI arrest in three months. “I had reached that point alcoholics call the bottom,” Mr. Blanchard writes. “That cold and lonely realization that life itself is impossible to contemplate in the absence of alcohol, but knowing the drug has destroyed the very essence of your soul.”

With the help of a sympathetic doctor, Mr. Blanchard was able to overcome thoughts of suicide and commit himself to a three-month in-patient rehabilitation program. Upon returning to Maine and his job as chief operating officer of a health care business, Mr. Blanchard attended AA meetings and managed to stay sober. However, he realized that there was something lacking in his life, until he began spending time on the Vineyard, and then turning his newfound passion for a place into an outlet for creative expression.

In the book, Mr. Blanchard writes, “I discovered an emotional tie to a geographic location I couldn’t explain. My walks on the beaches and cliffs stirred emotions often leading to tears of joy — and I didn’t need alcohol to connect to this mysterious energy. Amazing — truly a miracle.”

Mr. Blanchard further realized that by capturing the vistas that inspired him with his camera, and editing the pictures until they represented the mood that the scenes inspired in him, he could hold onto that magical quality while giving his life a new focus.

“I’d never picked up a camera before,” Mr. Blanchard told The Times. “I started watching videos about photography while I was working out on the elliptical every night. I learned how to edit. It completely absorbed me. I didn’t have to think about staying sober. It kind of liberated my brain. What I found is if you’re really passionate about something, the recovery takes care of itself.”

While using his newfound passion as therapy, Mr. Blanchard began posting his beautiful images on Facebook. Soon, he had thousands of followers. The Facebook postings eventually led to a website, where people could purchase the images, a calendar of Vineyard photos, and inclusion among the collection at the Island Art Gallery in Vineyard Haven.

With the book Fighting for My Life, Mr. Blanchard has taken his mission one step further. He has written a brief introduction about his journey from active alcoholic to a sober life, and explains how he uses photography as a tool in his recovery process.

The book is divided into 16 chapters, each featuring a lesson. Subject headings include Accepting Change, Being Grateful, Letting Go, and Finding Community. Each section includes a paragraph by the author with his thoughts on the topic. Many incorporate motivational quotes. The inspirational messages express what Mr. Blanchard has learned along the road to recovery, and they offer hope to others fighting the disease of addiction.

However, even those who are not plagued with substance abuse issues can appreciate the optimism and advice on living life to its fullest. Taken simply as a book of photography, the book will appeal to all who love the Vineyard.

The images are stunning and evocative. From a sunrise at Felix Neck, to a full moon over South Beach, to a close up of swans flying, every picture captures the mystical quality of the Island. Details like the weathered boards of the walkway to Long Point Beach and speckled rocks in Aquinnah are as important to Mr. Blanchard as the dramatic skies and striking color contrasts that he often captures. Textures like the craggy surface of the Gay Head Cliffs and rippled sand on an uninhabited beach attest to the heightened awareness of an observer who has fully given himself over to his surroundings.

Mr. Blanchard explains his process in the book. “I frequently use High Dynamic Range methods in merging multiple exposures to bring out the detail,” he writes. “I don’t alter images by cutting and pasting backgrounds or other techniques that alter the basic construct of the photo. I edit the photos to complete the process of expressing what that moment meant to me.”

A grateful Mr. Blanchard hopes to one day be able to give something back to the community. He is currently completing a masters degree in psychology and a program at UMass Boston to become licensed as an addiction counselor. His ambition is to one day work with young addicts.

The author/photographer has become involved with the Martha’s Vineyard Community Services New Paths outpatient recovery program. He is donating $5 from the sale of each book to the program. “I realized that the Vineyard was struggling with addiction services,” he says. “The program funding for New Paths is ending in a year.”

“Part of my mission is to inspire others,” Mr. Blanchard says. “It’s the processes, not the outcome. I have no idea where this is going to go. Every night if I go home and do this instead of drinking, it’s a successful night.”

Mr. Blanchard will launch his new book at an art show and signing on Saturday, Oct. 13, from 4-6 pm at the office of Homes on Martha’s Vineyard, Post Office Square, Edgartown. A donation of $5 for every book will go to Martha’s Vineyard Community Services, which is a co-sponsor of the event. For more information, contact Jan Pogue at Vineyard Stories, 508-221-2338 or

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For the past 20 years, director/producer Bess O’Brien has been making films that deal with issues such as heroin addiction, domestic violence, and the foster care system. Her latest film, The Hungry Heart, focuses on the very real problem of prescription drug addiction, especially among young people. It spotlights Fred Holmes, a pediatrician in a rural Vermont town who, at the time of the making of the film, was treating youthful addicts. The feature-length documentary presents a first-hand personal look at a problem that is reaching the point of a health care epidemic in this country and has impacted communities all across the nation, including Martha’s Vineyard.

Since The Hungry Heart was released in 2013, Ms. O’Brien has toured with the film, screening it in 150 towns and cities around the country. She has reached out to the audience in Q & A and discussion periods after the screenings, often with one or more of the film subjects.

On Friday, October 10, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center will host a screening of The Hungry Heart. Ms. O’Brien will be on hand to answer questions and hopefully generate a conversation about a problem that is as much of a threat on the Vineyard as it is in communities all over the world.

The MV Times recently spoke by phone with Ms. O’Brien about some of the issues raised by the film, and how it has impacted audiences and communities from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Nantucket, Mass.

HH TRAILER-VIMEO from Bess O’brien on Vimeo.

Do you think that people are starting to address this rampant problem more seriously?

It’s interesting because after I made my film a couple of years ago, I toured extensively through the state last fall. Then, in January, the governor of Vermont focused his entire State of the State Address on prescription drugs. He referenced my film a number of times. No other governor of the state had ever spent the State of the State talking about one issue. The next day we were inundated with national and international press. For about three months there was press coming up here weekly. The New York Times, al jazeera, The Boston Globe, journalists from Canada, Norway. What I have been saying is that the important thing about showing this movie and getting the word out is that we essentially said “we have a problem.”

The film is set in a rural town in Vermont. Is there a particular reason that you chose to focus on this community?

This film came to me through Fred Holmes. He wanted to tell the story of the young people he was working with. But I don’t think there’s anything special about Vermont. We’ve taken the film all over. It doesn’t matter where we go. We could go to a city, a town, a wealthy community, a poor community. It’s the same story. People tend to think that things like drug addiction doesn’t happen in rural areas or in beautiful places like Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket, Vermont. What we see in the media is usually focused on cities, but drug addiction is everywhere. It’s a huge problem. It’s a disease that’s a national health problem.

You focus primarily on young adults in this film.  Do you find that teens are especially at risk with prescription drug addiction?

Fred often says that among the kids that he is seeing, the average age that they started using is 12 or 13. On the special feature section on the DVD, there are interviews with professionals. One woman who works as an addiction specialist says that young people are now starting with prescription drugs. The gateway drug for many people is not pot anymore. I think that kids find it in their medicine cabinet and think, “this can’t be that bad. It’s prescribed by a doctor.”

In the film we see Dr. Holmes prescribing Suboxone (a drug used to treat opioid addiction) as part of his treatment program. What would you say to people who may object to the use of Suboxone?

The reason that Suboxone is in the movie is that’s part of what Fred does, but I hope that it’s not the main focus. The most important part of the film for me — and why I did the movie — is the incredible relationship that Fred has with his patients. Many of them were coming just to be with Fred, for affirmation and to be with someone who has respect for them. There’s so much shame around addiction. What Fred has is an incredible ability to make people believe in themselves.

Suboxone is one small tool in the toolbox in the process of recovery. Getting clean is a huge life-changing thing. People need outpatient treatment. Some people go to AA or NA. You need strong family and community support. Suboxone is one small tool. If you use it in the right way with a doctor, and you’re doing the right things in your life, then you will probably do well.

I do not feel that any of us should judge anyone who is in recovery and working hard to do it. The metaphor I use is some people use the patch to help relieve the craving for nicotine. They use it so that they can calm down and start weaning themselves off cigarettes. If you take Suboxone, it stops your cravings and blocks the ability of any other opiates to get you high. It helps you in early recovery get over that hump. There are people in the film who are now off Suboxone and doing well in their lives. It can also be abused like any other drug. The film is certainly not a pro-Suboxone movie.

To me, a lot of the bugaboo around Suboxone is the judgement we have around addicts. The fact is it’s an incredibly complicated illness. Everybody gets clean in a different way. Some people may say this is replacing one drug with another. That is naïve and not true at all.

What kind of response do you get when you show the film?

The reaction is 99 percent positive. It puts a human face on addiction. One of the most moving things about the screenings is that there are always parents who come who are just bleary eyed and stunned because their kid is in the midst of this horrible addiction. They’ve  come to this movie to hear what other people say.

Even in Vermont we still don’t have enough resources, then you go into Maine and New Hampshire and the resources are very scarce. That’s really the saddest thing, to meet people whose kids are in the depths of addiction. They can’t find a bed [in a detox]. They can’t find a doctor or a treatment center. Many doctors don’t want to deal with this. Some of people who come to the film want to see some hope. The discussions with the audiences afterwards are always very moving and informative. It’s a chance for people to talk about what they need in their community.

What do you hope to accomplish with the screenings?

I hope the film is a stepping off point for people to rally around the issue, to work on community action. A lot of people who come to the screening not knowing much, when they leave they want to get involved in the community. In a number of communities where we showed the film, they had a sign-up list of people who want to work on the issues. There’s been a lot of grassroots work on the problem.

What is the most surprising thing you learned while making this film?

I think just how widespread prescription drug and opiate addiction is. We need more resources. That’s what we hear. If we looked at the statistics of how many people are addicted in our country, and how many people need help, we’d realize that what we have is a health epidemic here. We don’t have enough facilities. We don’t have enough support. That is unconscionable. I hope it instills in people that we need to get help for these people.

We need to start looking at this as a health issue, and not a criminal problem. One of the most important things that the governor addressed in his talk is that we need more treatment resources. That is something that I’ve always believed in, but after making this movie it became very clear to me.

The Hungry Heart will screen at the M.V. Film Center, Friday, October 10, at 7:30 pm. Discussion with Bess O’Brien to follow. For more information, visit

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Books by Noepe writers in residence. —Photo courtesy of Noepe Center

For the past seven years, Justen Ahren has been presenting public readings by many of the poets and authors who have passed through his M.V. Writer’s Residency program at Noëpe Center for the Literary Arts. The month of October will hold a number of opportunities to hear the work of both established and emerging writers from points around the globe. The readings, followed by Q and A sessions, are always varied and interesting showcases of polished work.

The first reading will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 7, at the West Tisbury library. A second library reading by other poets and authors will be held Wednesday, Oct. 22. A solo poetry reading will be hosted by the Noëpe Center for the Literary Arts on Saturday, Oct. 11.

The Noëpe Center is currently hosting a full house of writers and poets who are signed on for residencies of two to four weeks. Among them are some established names in the literary world, as well as emerging writers who are newly published or enjoying success through magazines and journals. They come from all over. Some are returnees to the program. Others are here for the first time.

Among those involved in readings at the West Tisbury library will be fiction writers Mark Widerander, whose novel “Stevenson’s Treasure,” written during a previous Noëpe residency, was published in 2014 and whose screenplay was a finalist in the Academy of Arts & Sciences annual writing competition; Karen Hunt, also a returnee, who is working on a new novel called “Letters from Purgatory”; Czech writer Barbara Lyckova, who is working on a collection of short stories; and mystery writer Con Lehane.

Nonfiction writers will include Nan Elliot, whose work has appeared in National Geographic and the Los Angeles Times, and who is currently at work on a biography of mountain climber Ray Genet; William Heath, writer of historical works, whose book “William Wells and the Struggle for the Old Northwest”will be published in 2015; Christina Gombar, author of a book of literary criticism, “Great Women Writers, 1900-1950,” who is currently working on a series of interconnected historical novels; and Jane Seskin, author of 12 books, whose poetry and articles have appeared in various newspapers and magazines. Half a dozen published poets will also be participating in the group readings.

On Saturday, Oct. 11, Pushcart Prize nominee Sarah Levine will be reading from her poetry chapbook “Her Man” (New Megaphone Press) at the Noëpe Center. Ms. Levine’s work has been included in the 2013 Best New Poets, PANK, Green Mountains Review, Vinyl, and Handsome,among others.

This past summer the Noëpe Center hosted a full roster of workshops led by acclaimed authors, poets, a panel of food writers, a storyteller, and a literary agent. The series was a success, with many of the workshops selling out. Elizabeth Rosner, bestselling author of “Blue Nude” and “The Speed of Light,” was among those who headed weeklong workshops. She will return next year, along with a number of new participants including acclaimed memoirist, poet, and novelist Jennifer Clement of Mexico City.

All in all, the Noëpe Center has become a serious destination for both writer residents, who are hosted by the center twice each year, and local and off-Island visitors interested in attending the diverse workshops.

Noëpe writers’ readings will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 7, and Wednesday, Oct. 22, both at 4:30 pm at the West Tisbury library. A solo poetry reading by Sarah Levine will be hosted by the Noëpe Center for the Literary Arts on Saturday, Oct. 11, at 6:00 pm. For more information, visit or

"Little Bird Book" watercolor. —Art by Carol Barsha

Hidden away on a side street just beyond the busy commercial stretch of Circuit Avenue, Oak Bluffs’ A Gallery has quickly established itself as a showcase for contemporary and cutting-edge art.

A visit to the open-layout gallery, with its industrial gray walls and floor, offers the experience of viewing museum-quality work by masters of their media. The artists featured at A Gallery this past summer (whose work is still on display) include Irving Petlin, one of the world’s foremost pastel artists; the late famed avant-garde sculptor Stella Waitzkin, who was a fixture in the downtown New York City art scene in the 1960s and ’70s; and highly successful photographers Marianna Cook and Ed Grazda, both of whom have work in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum and MOMA, and have been published in the New Yorker, among other magazines and journals.

"A Tree with Crows and Nest" a gelatin silver print. —Art by Mariana Cook
“A Tree with Crows and Nest” a gelatin silver print. —Art by Mariana Cook

Owner Tanya Augoustinos also tries out new and emerging artists every year. She seeks out work which is both contemporary and, in many cases, unusual for the medium or technique. Often it represents something larger than its visual appeal.

For those without the budget of a fine art collector, A Gallery is currently hosting a show of small works. In some cases that means small in scale, in some cases smaller price tags, and in some cases, both.

The annual show gives Ms. Augoustinos the chance to reintroduce some of the artists she has shown throughout the summer, as well as to incorporate some new people into her collection.

“It’s sort of a season-ending invitation to people who don’t make large work and a chance to include as many people as possible,” says Ms. Augoustinos. “The scale would also be a factor as far as affordability. There’s a range of pricing.”

"Incoming Tide" acrylic on wood panel. —Art by John Redick
“Incoming Tide” acrylic on wood panel. —Art by John Redick

The current selection at A Gallery features some very small-scale works, including evocative wave paintings by John Redick utilizing a unique acrylic process. Mr. Redick makes seascapes using the flow of the paint to create almost abstract works that really capture the energy and mystery of the ocean. The bright blue, very shiny little works are self-contained on small canvases.

Other standalones on small canvases are tiny mixed-media pieces by Ria Ray, a California artist and healer formerly of the Vineyard. Ms. Ray uses small square canvases to create the “Guardian” series: little visual talismans that, according to Ms. Augoustinos, are “a reminder to love yourself and take care of yourself.” The mini paintings are highly textural, flecked with bits of gold, and sell for the very reasonable price of $100.

Beth Parker, a local landscaper, is also a channeler of sorts. She has created a series of small crayon, pen, and ink drawings of what might be described as alien robotics. Her figures display a cross of mechanical and organic forms, showing a world of her own imagining. In handmade frames that have the look of burnished metal, they are both charming and fascinatingly futuristic.

Tom Mullins, who only recently started doing pastels under the tutelage of Valentine Estabrook, has his gallery debut in this show. Remarkable for capturing the essence of his subjects, Mr. Mullins’ masterful little seascapes and still lifes display a great sense of composition and a knack for simplifying images to their elemental forms in a very appealing way.

Midsize pieces include work by established A Gallery artists like Carol Barsha, who has contributed some simple little drawings of books; Doris Lubell, who has created works with faces peering out from dreamy abstract landscapes; Alejandro Ray, who has created some smaller versions of his signature geometric figurative work in bright colors; and Ed Schulman, whose semiabstract figures, done in an interesting muted color palette and rustic style, show off more of the emerging Vineyard artist’s unique vision.

Pen, ink, crayon, and gouache on wood. —Art by Beth Parker
Pen, ink, crayon, and gouache on wood. —Art by Beth Parker

There are also a few newcomers to A Gallery, whom Ms. Augoustinos is introducing for the first time with the thought of including them in upcoming exhibits. Among those is Roxann Leibenhaut, whose Brooklyn and Manhattan cityscapes capture the mood of New York. Her small and midsize oil paintings are great examples of everyday urban life, with all of the details of a mundane city scene coming together to depict the energy and atmosphere of the city. Ms. Augoustinos explains, “She takes an accumulation of a lot of information and brings peace to it. She reaches calm out of chaos.”

Also included in the small-works show are terracotta and bronze bas-relief panels by Ilka List, Christopher Wright’s infused-metal black and white photos, and Harry Seymour’s scratchboard and pastel works. All are excellent examples of A Gallery’s focus on unique vision and unusual technique.

Ms. Augoustinos will keep the gallery open through the end of the year, with new work by Heather Goff being added throughout this month and a final show sometime in November. The Gallery will also host several events, including a cabaret evening on Saturday, Oct. 11, featuring a short play, music, poetry, and video.

A Gallery, which has been situated in its present location for two years, has now established itself as an outpost for art lovers in the formerly rundown neighborhood behind the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank. With the new bowling alley well under way in the construction process, the area is bound to become a new mecca of activity, and Ms. Augoustinos is looking forward to the change.

“I’m very excited to be staying in this space,” Ms. Augoustinos says. “I’ve definitely made myself a home in this neighborhood, and will continue to be in this space.” She notes that she will be adding more wall space next year, and has a full schedule of shows for summer 2015.

For more information, visit

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Artist Liz Floyd views photographs and interviews on display in the Pebble Gallery at Featherstone. —Photo by Michael Cummo

You can always expect to find a bunch of artists hanging around Featherstone, teaching classes or showing their work. But for the next week, you’ll find a group of artists whose portraits — instead of their work — are the focus of a new show. The show of photographs, curated by Vineyard psychologist Jane Dreeben, will hang at the Pebble Gallery through Sunday, Sept. 28. It features Vineyarders involved in different creative endeavors, from painting and sculpture to dance, music, architecture, and even hairstyling.

For an even more up-close and personal introduction to some of the Island’s artists, Featherstone will be hosting its fourth annual Artist’s Studio Tour on Saturday, Sept. 27. Guests will have the chance to visit 15 different Vineyard artists at work in their studios all around the Island.

The event is a self-guided tour where guests are given info about the artists and a map to the various workplaces. They are invited to visit any or all of the studios at their leisure throughout the day. It’s a great chance to have an intimate glimpse into the artistic process, view the participants’ new work, discuss their processes, and maybe even purchase a work directly from the artist.

The studio visits offer far more than a glimpse of an artist absorbed in work at an easel. Among the participants this year are fiber artists, a ceramicist, a sculptor, and two women who use elements of nature in their work: Peggy Zablotny, whose medium is botanicals, and Kathy Poehler, who gets creative with seaweed. The tour offers a great opportunity to learn about materials and technique, as well as witness the creation process.

“You get to see all their books and libraries,” says Featherstone director Ann Smith. “And how they store their paints and textiles and other materials.” Ms. Smith adds that some of the studios themselves reflect the artistic nature of their occupants, and a number are situated on beautiful properties with stunning views.

While four of the artists are returnees from past years, 11 are new to the artist tour. Some, like Wendy Weldon and Rez Williams, will be well-known to Vineyarders, while a number of relative newcomers are among those happy to open their most personal space to the public. “They’re all very personable,” says Ms. Smith. “Everyone serves lemonade or cookies.”

Those who had a chance to witness the impressive all-day cast iron demonstration at Featherstone last weekend may be interested in checking out the workplaces of ceramicist Sharry Stevens-Grunden, or sculptor Heather Sommers, who works primarily in stone. Others will appreciate the fascinating array of objects that find their way into the work of mixed-media artists Genevieve Jacobs and Roberta Gross.

Tickets are just $30, and all proceeds benefit the nonprofit Featherstone Center.

If you’re not prepared to drive around the Island to get a glimpse of the people behind the artistry, Ms. Dreeben’s exhibit will offer an intimate look at some Islanders expressing themselves in front of the lens of some equally creative individuals.

Guests read the participating photographers' biographies. Front: Heidi Wild’s portrait of dancer Sandra Stone. —Photo by Michael Cummo
Guests read the participating photographers’ biographies. Front: Heidi Wild’s portrait of dancer Sandra Stone. —Photo by Michael Cummo

Ms. Dreeben recruited six young Vineyarders to assist with the project. She interviewed a selection of subjects and then asked her team of young photographers to shoot them in a setting or pose that would give a sense of the individual. “I tried to have each of the photographers express something about that person’s creative self,” says Ms. Dreeben. The results are very creative. Some of them are fairly straightforward depictions of the subjects at work, but most show the artists at other locations, expressing their creativity in other manners. All give a real sense of the subject, and are good examples of some emerging Island talent in the field of photography.

The subjects were hand-selected by Ms. Dreeben. “I chose them through my personal response to their work,” she said. “I’ve been picking people whose work I admire or that has elicited some response in me.”

“I got interested in the project because there are so many amazing creative people here,” Ms. Dreeben said. “What I wanted to show was the diversity of the artists on the Vineyard. I got interested in both their creative lives and how they got interested in what they do, how they do it, and their relationships with the Island.”

The mini-bios are revealing introductions to the various personalities depicted. Ms. Dreeben hopes to host another show of the photos next spring, and she plans to eventually turn the project into a book.

For more information on the exhibit and studio tour, visit

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On Friday, the crowd was seated in a V formation around the runway, which had a stage at the apex. — Photo by Michael Cummo


A model sports an Island Outfitters sweater. — Photo by Michael Cummo


Fashion Week founder and Dressed MV editor Trena Morrison provided a quick introduction at the start of the second night of Martha's Vineyard Fashion Week. — Photo by Michael Cummo


Dreamland was packed for Friday night's event. — Photo by Michael Cummo


A male model shows off an Island Outfitter's zip up on the runway at Dreamland. — Photo by Michael Cummo


Each Island Outfitters model came out after the show to model their outfits. — Photo by Michael Cummo


A model walks the runway wearing a look from B*Tru. — Photo by Michael Cummo


The models, like this one wearing B*Tru clothes, showed off the clothes from a platform. — Photo by Michael Cummo


B*Tru featured stylish clothes for the cooling weather. — Photo by Michael Cummo


A model shows off a style from B*Tru while the crowd returns from an intermission. — Photo by Michael Cummo


Now that autumn is here, fashionistas say sweaters are in. — Photo by Michael Cummo


A shoulder season look from B*Tru. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The fourth annual M.V. Fashion Week, which wrapped up Saturday night with a splashy runway show, featured eight events, clothing by six local designers, half a dozen jewelers, fall looks from 10 Vineyard stores, eight hair and makeup stylists, and more than 30 models.

Most important, the weeklong event raised thousands for benefiting organization Angel Flight Northeast. Fashion Week is the sole Vineyard fundraiser for the all-volunteer nonprofit that provides free air travel to and from medical appointments for those in need. Since its inception in 2011, M.V. Fashion Week has provided $20,000 for Angel Flight. According to founder/organizer Trena Morrison, this year’s event was the most successful so far in terms of money raised.

Thursday’s fashion show and dinner at Lure featured new designs by established designer Stina Sayre, whose boutique on Main Street, Vineyard Haven, offers high-quality fashion with a European flair, and the mother/daughter team of Randi Sylvia and Marlene DiStefano, whose Kenworthy line of designs can be found at StudioShop in Oak Bluffs.

Friday’s show at Dreamland spotlighted casual looks from local stores as well as the work of two local bathing-suit designers. The willowy Dynasty Models, imported from Boston, flashed lots of skin while strutting the double, two-way runway and posing on a small elevated platform in bikinis, shorts, and cover-ups.

The real drama could be found at Saturday’s finale — also at Dreamland — where Karen Trotier of Menagerie showcased showstopping designs. Models were decked out in hats decorated with gilded horseshoe crabs, capes and bodices made from clamshells, a conch-shell headdress, a giant top hat garlanded with ferns and green mini lights, and — the final bit of drama — a precariously tall set of antlers fashioned from tree branches. Not everything was strictly for show. Ms. Trotier’s evening looks feature lots of sequins and feathers, long trains, and highly textural fabrics, but maintain a dramatically elegant feel.

On the other end of the spectrum, new designer Lauren Morgan presented a line that was remarkable for its simplicity. Working mainly with luscious solid colors — lemony yellow, melon, robin’s-egg blue — Ms. Morgan has a great sense for breezy, untailored design with flair. Her signature look combined a flattering free-flowing shift dress with architectural elements or feminine adornments adding interest up top. It was an impressive, very professional debut from the Vineyard’s latest designer.

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Singers perform in one of the landscape/art installations at Still Point. — Photo by Cheryle Alexander

Nature became art, and art intertwined with nature, during Still Point, a magical landscape and performance experience last Friday and Sunday. The public was invited to witness the unique installation/performance on a serenely beautiful property in West Tisbury during two guided tours. Still Point, an art and nature experience was a collaboration between landscape artist and patron of the arts Claudia Miller, whose thoughtfully laid out West Tisbury acreage provided the site, and director/choreographer Wendy Taucher of New York and Martha’s Vineyard. The two women have been working on the piece — from conception to selection of material and casting to logistics — for the past two years.

On Friday afternoon, a group of over 120 people gathered in a large barn and its adjoining veranda. They chatted while waiting — not quite sure what to expect — for the adventure to begin. Then, after a brief introduction, the audience was split into four groups and shuffled off in four different directions.

The weather was perfect. A warm, bright, Indian summer day. Following an all-but-silent guide, the guests walked along winding paths, first skirting a pumpkin patch, then passing from open field to canopies of trees where the sun created a dappled surface on the path.

Featured singers Hilary Ginther and David Gordan perform a new vocal arrangement of Bach's Goldberg Variations. —Photo by Cheryle Alexander
Featured singers Hilary Ginther and David Gordan perform a new vocal arrangement of Bach’s Goldberg Variations. —Photo by Cheryle Alexander

There were pleasant surprises, both planned and fortuitous, to be discovered along the way. A beautiful rock sculpture by Dave Brown, a feat of both engineering and aesthetic vision, was on display just off the path. A pond lay behind a scrim of foliage. A formation of geese flew overhead, causing the walkers to look upward. Then, shifting their focus back earthbound, they were greeted by a serene Buddha sculpture sitting unobtrusively on a large rock to the side of the path.

More Buddhas popped up often along the way, perched in trees or on rocks, festooned tastefully with sunflowers and feathers. A copse of starkly white, branchless tree trunks presented itself as an organic sculpture garden.

After a lengthy walk, the visitors arrived at a semi-clearing for the first of four 10-minute performances. A group of six opera singers, both men and women in orange ombre robes and tunics, surrounded an incongruously placed piano. Strolling through the trees, gazing off contemplatively in different directions, the group filled the woods with otherworldly music. The piece they performed was an arrangement by Ms. Taucher and pianist Dror Baitel, based on J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. The singers, like all the other participants, were accomplished professionals recruited from Ms. Taucher’s company of New York City singers, actors, and dancers.

While one group of visitors was immersed in this nature and art experience, the others were playing witness to three disparate performances. Then each group moved on to the next prearranged location. Each piece was created specifically for its particular site.

At a clearing surrounded by Tibetan flags and a large Buddha meditating next to a sea-washed driftwood tree, a solo dancer interacted with a row of inverted stumps, her movements and poses emulating, or responding to, the twisting root formations.

From atop a log bench, actor Donovan Dietz gave a powerful dramatic reading of a poem which combined a work by T.S. Eliot with poetry by West Tisbury Poet Laureate Justen Ahren. An excerpt from Eliot’s Four Quartets referred to as The Still Point of the Turning World was the inspiration for Mr. Ahren’s contribution.

At another clearing, a quartet of singers stood arranged around and atop a large flat rock. Unaccompanied, they harmonized beautifully on a chanting arrangement of four of Bach’s chorales. Chirruping insects filled in the pauses. The piece, intentionally nonverbal, had mystical and spiritual overtones.

Ayo Janeen Jackson, performs at Stillpoint to choreography by Wendy Taucher. —Photo by Cheryle Alexander

The latter performance was Ms. Taucher’s jumping-off point in the creation of the performance part of the installation. During an initial walk-through of the property, she was inspired by a view from a particular vista. “I decided when I was up on a hill that I wanted to use the Bach chorales,” Ms. Taucher said in a post-event interview. “I knew that I didn’t want to use language. I changed the lyrics to syllables. That was the first idea for how I wanted to connect the piece. Bach music was the key to everything.”

“It really did feed on itself with all of the collaborations. Justen came in and listened to the arrangement. He wrote a new poem and found Still Point by Eliot.”

Ms. Miller was responsible for the landscape backdrop. “My home and my land is a canvas for me,” Ms. Miller said. “Because I do collages with what I can find and coordinate, that’s what I love. I walk these woods with that in mind. Nature doesn’t need much improvement. Rearranging is more what I do with what is already there.” She was also involved with every piece of the performance aspect. Ms. Taucher only signed on to the project with the promise that it would be a true collaboration with Ms. Miller.

“The property itself is a work of art, the vistas, the landscapes,” said Ms. Taucher. In her introduction to the event, Ms. Taucher explained the project: “Still Point is a place. It’s a canvas for Claudia Miller, and also an inspiration.”

After the initial guided tour, guests were invited to stroll along the property and revisit the four arenas where the performances were playing out in a continuous loop. Most took advantage of that opportunity, taking the time to stop, admire the art, immerse themselves in the surroundings, and enjoy a meditative, multisensory, self-guided experience.

“We designed it so that people could either re-experience it or check out other paths,” said Ms. Taucher.  “The audience really did become part of the event. The reception to the piece was great. I try to do the work and let the work talk to me, and if it’s well received, that’s a bonus.”

Ms. Miller concurred. “I wanted this to be as natural as possible,” she said. “To invite people to have an artistic experience in nature so that we, as humans, can interact with nature and be more cooperative than destructive. Through the arts we find harmony and I think that’s what we achieved. I was very happy to see [among the visitors] that there was curiosity and open mindedness.”

Friday’s guests, without exception, seemed to fully appreciate an experience that was as uniquely and indefinably magical as the Vineyard itself.

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Teo Azzollini, wearing a dress by designer Karen Trotier, at the Sandbar and Grill in 2013. —Photo by So Focused Photography

This is the time of year for a little pampering. Congratulate yourself for getting through another summer of traffic, parking woes, crowds, lines, and stressed-out tourists (it should be an oxymoron, but unfortunately, as we all know, it’s not).

Luckily, there’s an event coming up that will give folks the chance to dress to the nines, catch up with friends, enjoy a fun spectacle, and maybe even indulge in a new fall wardrobe purchase. Martha’s Vineyard Fashion Week 2014 will feature events through September 20, all with the focus on creativity in the realm of personal style.

Model Zoe in a dress, belt, and hat by Kenworthy Design in 2013. — Photo by Geoff Parkhurst

Lest one think that Fashion Week is all fantasy and frippery with no substance, keep in mind that all of the proceeds go to a very worthy cause: Angel Flight Northeast, an organization that provides free flights to and from medical appointments for those in need. It’s a privately funded organization that serves a huge need for Island residents. The pilots are all volunteers who donate their time, fuel, and aircraft to the effort. While Angel Flight NE has operated for 18 years, they have served folks on Martha’s Vineyard somewhat under the radar.

M.V. Fashion Week, the brainchild of writer/editor Trena Morrison, was launched four years ago in an effort to raise funds and awareness for their beneficiary, and also to bring a little splash to the Vineyard off-season.

This year, the event has been reined in and streamlined considerably. The six days — Monday through Saturday — will include seven events in three towns. Fashion Week will feature three movie screenings, one trunk show, two runway fashion shows at Dreamland, and a sit-down dinner/fashion show. Monday through Wednesday will be devoted to fashion-centric movie screenings at the M.V. Film Center.

The gala event, An Elegant Affair, to be held at Lure on Thursday, Sept. 18, will please both gourmands and fashionistas. For $125, guests will be treated to a sumptuous sit-down dinner while previewing the latest fall fashions from two local designers as well as some of the Island’s premiere boutiques. The former include Stina Sayre, whose high-end line features great fabrics and simple lines with unique tailoring details. Ms. Sayre’s clothes are eminently wearable, yet eye-catching. And for the fourth year in a row, Kenworthy Designs will roll out its latest line. The mother/daughter team of Marlene diStefano and Randi Sylvia always manage to surprise audiences with their continually evolving line of hip, artistically rendered women’s clothing.

On Friday, Sept. 19, Fashion Week will take a turn for the casual with In the Company of Angels, a show at Dreamland featuring sportswear, Vineyard casual attire, and bathing suits from two different local designers. SeaLove Swimwear, which has been parading bikini-clad models since year one of Fashion Week, will be joined by new-to-the-fashion-scene designer Liane Fitzgerald of Roy Swim. Ms. Fitzgerald, who studied studio art in college, started up her line of two-piece suits last summer, and has been selling them at the Chilmark Flea Market. She was inspired to design her own suits during her nine years working at Lucy Vincent Beach. “I basically lived in bikinis,” says Ms. Fitzgerald. Last winter she took some classes at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, and worked on expanding her sewing and design skills.

Another newcomer to Fashion Week will be featured in Saturday’s show. Lauren Morgan has only recently begun designing clothes, but has had a passion for fashion for a long time. Her new line draws inspiration from the Island landscape, as well as the Vineyard lifestyle. “I’m trying to create dresses that can go from day to night for women who want to dress smart. The looks are inspired by stone walls and the lichen that grows on them.” Ms. Morgan’s pieces are all made from linen and fine silk. She has workrooms lined up in New York City, giving her the ability to mass-produce her dresses. She hopes to find a Vineyard outlet for her beautiful and unique designs.

Nate Vieira, Rachel Romanowsky, and Traeger DiPietro walks the finale for Mikel Hunter in 2013 at Union Chapel. —Photo by Geoff Parkhurst

Saturday’s benefit runway show will spotlight some trend-setting looks from local stores, including the boutique/art gallery Mikel Hunter (formerly PikNik Art & Apparel). Mr. Hunter always puts on a great show, and has an eye for pairing layers and accessories in fun ways. The grand finale will be provided by Karen Trotier of Menagerie. Ms. Trotier, a onetime Project Runway finalist, has a flair for drama, and you can certainly expect something fun and very cool from this highly creative designer who has been a star of Fashion Week since the first year.

In the days prior to Fashion Week, Ms. Trotier was still working on her line, but she did give a few hints as to what we can expect. “The show is based on shells and stuff from the sea,” she said. Stuff from the sea may include wampum and, surprisingly, horseshoe crab shells. A true nature lover and repurposer, Ms. Trotier says that she is also incorporating branches from her backyard sassafras tree to complement some 1940s print fabric. Appropriately in keeping with the “found on the Vineyard” theme, the designer also salvaged some of her yardage from the Chicken Alley Thrift Shop, and she will be recruiting a few local artists to help hand-paint — and model — a couple of menswear looks.

This year, once again, all the runway shows will feature professional models from Boston’s Dynasty Models, Inc., as well as locals. Music will be provided by DJ Pretty Ninja, and hair and makeup by SeaSpa Salon, Wavelengths, Maggie’s Salon, and Companhia de Belleza Salon. The two Dreamland shows will both feature a Chilmark Chocolate tasting bar, a photo booth with local photographer David Welch, and something new to Fashion Week: a vendor area where guests can purchase items like handcrafted jewelry, clothing, cosmetics, and skincare.

Fashion Week is unique and enjoyable — like a New York or Paris Fashion Week without the attitude. And it’s always just as interesting to see what the audience members have pulled out of their closets as it is to admire the runway looks.

An Elegant Affair dinner and fashion show: Thursday, Sept. 18, 6 pm, Lure at the Winnetu. Table of 4: $480; adult: $120. Includes dinner, tax, tip, and ticket to show. Does not include alcoholic beverages.

In the Company of Angels fashion show: Friday, Sept. 19, 8:30 pm, Dreamland, Oak Bluffs. VIP: $40; general seating: $20; general admission (sold at the door): $10.

2014 Fashion Show Benefit: Saturday, Sept. 20, 8:30 pm, Dreamland, Oak Bluffs. VIP: $40; general seating: $20; general admission (sold at the door): $10.

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Philip Weinstein will give a series of lectures on Tolstoy's "War and Peace."

Illicit love affairs, bankruptcy, infidelity, intrigue, gambling debts, feuds, rivalries, spiritual seeking. Sound like a typical winter on the Vineyard? Well, anyone so inclined can spend the next three months immersed in this sort of melodrama — virtually at least — plus a good dose of real drama in the form of war with all of its violence, politics, and strategizing, by reading one of the greatest books ever written. It can all be found in the 1,000-plus pages of Leo Tolstoy’s classic “War and Peace,” the subject of a six-part seminar beginning on Wednesday, Sept. 17.

Professor Philip Weinstein of Swarthmore College and New York University has been lending his considerable knowledge and keen insight on the classics of literature to Islanders for the past few years. This fall he will lead readers through the monumental epic that is considered by many the greatest novel ever written.

With the summer season at a close, now is a great time to tackle such an undertaking. Perhaps you can get some reading time in while waiting for the fish to bite in the Derby. And fear not, the book will be broken down into manageable 200-page chunks with two weeks in between each of the hour-and-a-half lecture/discussions. Professor Weinstein encourages attendee participation, and even welcomes differences of opinion. He excels at engaging a group and presenting information in a colorful fashion with wit, humor, and intelligence.

Mr. Weinstein has selected Tolstoy’s masterpiece for his latest series of participatory talks for a number of reasons. “First, I adore it,” he says. “I’ve taught ‘War and Peace’ off and on for 30 years at Swarthmore. It’s what the 19th century realistic novel can produce at its best. My line of approach is, Let’s keep attention on why this is a successful 19th century novel. It has all the power of realistic Western fiction.”

Mr. Weinstein is convinced that once people get over the intimidation of reading a work of such length and breadth, with so many characters and storylines, they’ll find themselves enthralled.

“I get a lot of people who read it umpteen years ago.” he says. “I’m hoping they’ll get so caught up in it that they’ll keep going.”

“War and Peace”follows the lives of a series of characters during the Napoleonic era, switching back and forth from battlefields to war rooms to drawing rooms. The work is divided into four books, each with subparts. “It breaks down beautifully into six sessions,” says Professor Weinstein, “breaking at critical junctions at the end of each two sessions.”

The characters range from the sympathetic to the villainous, from historical figures to members of the aristocracy to simple peasants. “It’s such a powerful gathering together of human drama,” Mr. Weinstein says. “There’s a mix of the historical and the fictional that no one has ever replicated. He [Tolstoy] makes that come to life because of the people he puts into the story. He has the capacity as a writer to take you into a character’s experience. You live out their emotional and intellectual fields in such a way that you’re inside their head.”

Mr. Weinstein has been splitting his time between his homes in Aquinnah and Pennsylvania since 1997.

During the handful of times that he was on sabbatical, the Swarthmore professor has presented fall and winter workshops at various Vineyard libraries. In the past he has led participants through seminars on William Faulkner, William Styron, American short stories, and the fiction of race. The current workshop is presented by the Vineyard Haven Public Library at the Katharine Cornell Theatre.

This year, Mr. Weinstein officially retired from his position as the Alexander Griswold

Cummins Professor of English Literature at Swarthmore College, and he and his wife will now live full-time on the Vineyard, although he will continue to teach in Boston, New York, and elsewhere. Upcoming for Mr. Weinstein are a course for Swarthmore alums in Boston this fall and a stint teaching for NYU in Abu Dhabi next spring.

“I’m a teacher by calling,” says Mr. Weinstein. “It’s just something I have to do in order to recognize myself.”

It’s a lucky thing for us on the Vineyard that Mr. Weinstein has a need to keep busy. He’s an inspiring teacher whose workshops are rich with interesting background information and full of insightful evaluation and interpretation.

“Tolstoy’s Modern Epic: War and Peace” will be presented by the Vineyard Haven library at the Katharine Cornell Theatre on Spring Street, Vineyard Haven. Classes will be held on Sept. 17, Oct.1, 15, and 29, Nov. 12, and Dec. 3, from 7 to 8:30 pm. The first session will cover Volume One, Parts One and Two. Professor Weinstein will be using the Pevear/Volokhonsky translation of the book, which is available through the CLAMS library system. Please register online or at the Vineyard Haven library and read the assigned sections in advance.