Authors Posts by Kelsey Perrett

Kelsey Perrett

Kelsey Perrett


The Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s new exhibit shows the subtleties and extremes of Martha’s Vineyard 1960’s metamorphosis.

Sea Change: Martha's Vineyard in the 1960s is currently on exhibit at the Martha's Vineyard Museum.

“Sea Change,” the newest exhibit at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, is not just a haven for history buffs. Music lovers, art fans, fashionistas, and activists young and old will appreciate the broad collection of artifacts, photos, and oral histories that paint a picture of Martha’s Vineyard in the 1960s. The exhibit only takes up a small room at the museum’s Edgartown location, but there’s a lot packed into that space.

The walls are decked with photos, artwork, posters, and home movie clips. A timeline encircles the room, guiding museum-goers through the major events in Vineyard history, and national history, from 1960 to 1969. At center are whimsical skirts and paisley shirts. And if you plug in a set of earphones, voices from the past stream in to tell the story of it all.

“When we were setting out trying to tackle an entire decade in this tiny little room, we knew we were going to have to use a lot of stories,” said the museum’s assistant curator, Anna Carringer, who formulated the exhibit with chief curator Bonnie Stacy and oral history curator Linsey Lee. “You can’t tell one linear story, because it is experienced differently by every single person. What we decided to do was explore the stories through the eyes of the people who were here.”

The staff turned to Ms. Lee’s extensive oral history collection for many of those stories. They also held a photo collection day where they scanned community members’ 1960s photos. Word of mouth got out, and eventually the collection grew to include several promotional posters from the legendary Mooncusser Cafe, and a variety of clothing ranging from Merrily Fenner’s old prom dress to a funky velveteen jacket Janet Messineo once donned.

“It’s hard to encapsulate one 10-year period,” said Ms. Lee. “This is not a comprehensive exhibit. It’s weaving together all of these elements. But the same things come up every time.”

Those topics include hearing and playing folk music at the Mooncusser; the beginnings of an environmentalist movement that spurred the founding of the Vineyard Conservation Society, and the preservation of Vineyard gems such as Cedar Tree Neck and Menemsha Hills. The exhibit also covers civil rights, the joyous fellowship surrounding the founding of the NAACP, and the controversial founding of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. At the same time, national events trickled down to affect the Vineyard, including the inauguration and assassination of President Kennedy and the war in Vietnam.

Ms. Carringer and Ms. Lee say the “endcaps” of the exhibit are the 72-day ferry strike in 1960, and the infamous Dike Bridge incident involving Senator Edward Kennedy in 1969. In the midst of the Steamship Authority strike, Islanders lent one another a helping hand by offering their own ferry services. “It was this really wonderful community spirit,” Ms. Carringer said. Adversely, Mary Jo Kopechne’s drowning at the Dike Bridge made Chappaquiddick a household name. Ms. Carringer said, “Whatever shred of that last vestige of old, quiet community feel,” sank with Senator Kennedy’s Oldsmobile Delmont 88 that July. “We couldn’t go back from that. The Island was changed in a way it couldn’t be unchanged.”’

Change, the curators say, is the prevailing theme of this exhibit. The 60s were a decade of change throughout the nation, but especially on the Vineyard, with its constant exchange of people, and the Island’s unique ability to remain isolated from the rest of the world, while still mindful of it. Multiple opinions were juxtaposed on just 100 square miles of land. “Like we always have and like we continue to do, people found a way to work together, to live together,” Ms. Carringer said. “It’s not always easy, but these people, like any other group of people — religious, cultural, ethnic — find their place, then change the Vineyard in a very subtle way.” Ms. Lee said that subtle change brought the Vineyard from “a ‘Leave It to Beaver’ type feeling, to a feeling of ‘anything is possible.’”

The stories and emotions surrounding those changes are complex and conflicted, but they are outlined thoroughly in the Sea Change exhibit’s displays and oral histories. “This exhibit is so dense, there’s so many layers,” Ms. Carringer said of the exhibit that will be up through April of 2015. “We hope people will come back and learn a little more each time.”

“Sea Change: Martha’s Vineyard in the 1960s” opened to the public last Friday. Admission is free for museum members, and $7 for non-members. For more information, visit

"King" Paul Domitrovich and Kathy "Lola" Domitrovich, proud owners (once again) of Lola's Southern Seafood.

Well, I’m not the world’s most passionate girl, but I do feel very enthusiastically about the way a Sunday morning should be spent. Some people go to church, I eat breakfast. The easiness of a Sunday morning, the internationally recognized day of rest, warrants a big, homestyle meal. There’s just something about a Sunday that makes it okay to eat a deep fried waffle. With a hunk of fried chicken. And half a watermelon. And two more plates worth of southern style brunch.

The staff at Lola's named this crispy Yellowtail Snapper with mango corn salsa "Pharrell" because he looked so happy sitting up on his plate.

The staff at Lola’s named this crispy Yellowtail Snapper with mango corn salsa “Pharrell” because he looked so happy sitting up on his plate. — Lola's Southern Seafood

So I’m happy to welcome Lola’s Southern Seafood back to its old home at the Island Inn in Oak Bluffs, where owner Kathy Lola Domitrovich and her husband, Paul, are serving dinner five nights a week and brunch on Sundays.

The past two summers, the restaurant was Hooked, owned by Christian and Greer Thornton of Atria. So where has Lola been all this time? In Florida, soaking up the rays and working as a restaurant consultant. “We really thought this time we were going to retire,” Ms. Domitrovich said.

But when the Thorntons decided not to return for a third season, the Domitroviches, who still owned the property, opted to bring back the old Lola’s. “We still have a lot of spirit,” Ms. Domitrovich said, on coming out of retirement. “When I’m not Lola, I’m kind of bored.”

The buffet style brunch at Lola's has everything from scrambled eggs and bacon to jambalaya and collard greens.

The buffet style brunch at Lola’s has everything from scrambled eggs and bacon to jambalaya and collard greens. — Lola's Southern Seafood

Ms. Domitrovich brought back a little of Florida back with her, in executive chef Chad Ford and sous chef Mark VanSchaick. Both men have cooked on islands in the Caribbean, and they bring a tropical flare to Lola’s Cajun-inspired menu.

“I was so tired of the same old tuna, swordfish, ribs, and chicken,” Ms. Domitrovich said. “This year, I’m going to put my money into good chefs and let them fly.” She told Mr. Ford and Mr. VanSchaick to “make it young, make it hip, twist it up, but people are still going to look for the Lola’s experience.”

And people have come looking. Out of the woodwork, actually, to see if the rumors of Lola’s reopening are true. “They’re just flipping out,” Ms. Domitrovich said of her customers. “It’s like we created this monster that we can only run.”

The new chefs at Lola's: Executive Chef Chad Ford and Sous Chef Mark VanSchaick.

The new chefs at Lola’s: Executive Chef Chad Ford and Sous Chef Mark VanSchaick. — Kelsey Perrett

Watching the customers come in to brunch on a Sunday morning is like witnessing a family reunion. “Thank God you’re back,” I heard on more than one occasion, as the old friends hug Ms. Domitrovich and shake Mr. Domitrovich’s hand. “We don’t have a restaurant,” Ms. Domitrovich said. “It’s more like coming to someone’s house.”

The social media response to the reopening has been overwhelming as well. The restaurant’s Facebook wall hosts comment such as: “The Vineyard is not the Vineyard without Lola’s,” “I was there from day one and will always be there,” and “Lola’s is back…YEAHHH!”

There are a few changes since Lola’s was last open in 2011. Mainly, the interior design, altered under Hooked’s ownership, and Mediterranean before that. The dining room is airy, light, and clean. “It looks very different,” Ms. Domitrovich said, “but it’s fabulous for weddings. I’m booking more weddings than I ever did.”

Still, Ms. Domitrovich wanted to add a bit of color, some New Orleans flare, to the place. The mural that once greeted Lola’s customers is still there, but currently hidden. “If we do expose it, we want to uncloak it with a big Lola thunder,” Ms. Domitrovich said.

In the meantime, she’s decorated the bar and dancefloor with New Orleans style art and old instruments. She started with two of Mr. Domitrovich’s old accordions. Soon, friends were digging up old guitars, trumpets, and flutes from their basements and closets. “It’s starting to look more like Lola’s,” she said.

The front dining area and the back bar will feature two distinct menus. Ms. Domitrovich says the back will harbor a more casual, local pub vibe, while the front will be more formal. Ms. Domitrovich plans to add an outdoor raw bar too, to complement the outdoor games area carried over from Hooked.

Old Lola’s standbys such as the mussels and grilled calamari will still be on the menu, but Ms. Domitrovich already has some new favorites. One creation is Mr. Ford’s stuffed lobster recipe from the Dominican Republic. He takes everything out except the claw meat, tempura fries it, tosses it in a “bangbang” sauce with a mango corn salsa, then reintroduces it to the lobster on a bed of rice with pecans and bok-choy.

Mr. Ford is also serving up a dish from Key West: yellow snapper, complete with head and bones, sitting up on a plate. “The meat just flakes off,” said Ms. Domitrovich. “It’s a really beautiful dish, so exciting looking.”

And of course, the elaborate all-you-can-eat brunch has returned for Sundays from 10:30 am to 1 pm. “Sunday brunch is right back to where it was. It’s such a local summer thing,” she said. When the brunch resumed on Mother’s Day Weekend, Ms. Domitrovich welcomed back customers that had been coming to eat there every Sunday for 20 years.

Lola’s also hosted the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s prom last weekend. Ms. Domitrovich was surprised to see some familiar faces all grown up. “The kids I employed here or who got married here 20 years ago have their own kids now. Those kids are starting to work for me,” Ms. Domitrovich said. “It’s come full circle. It’s very comforting to see.”

Overall, Ms. Domitrovich is happy with her decision to return from Florida. “It’s cold, I still have my coat on, but it’s nice to see all my old friends.”

It seems fitting to welcome Lola’s back this week, as it also marks the return of the Good Taste column in the MV Times. I’m psyched to take on this project. I’d also like to apologize for all the references to the song “Lola.” Ms. Domitrovich bears no resemblance to the cross-dressing love interest of Kink’s fame. They asked me to make the column young and hip, so of course I revolved my lede around a song from 1970. But the song simply would not stop playing on my broken internal record player. And who am I to turn down The Kinks on vinyl?

Send me your dining news and questions to

For more information on Lola’s Southern Seafood, call 508-693-6093, visit, or search Lola’s Martha’s Vineyard on Facebook.

Matt Cancellare works out on his body and mind in his home gym.

It’s well known that exercise boasts just as as many mental perks as physical benefits. It relieves stress and anxiety, releases mood enhancing endorphins, improves self confidence, creativity, memory, and sleep. Almost any type of exercise can produce these results, but those who really want to test their mental and physical limits should try lacing up the boxing gloves.

Boxing instructor Matt Cancellare of Vineyard Haven likens the sport of boxing to a physical chess game. The sparring participants react to one another’s moves, requiring tremendous focus, perseverance, and an ability to remain calm under pressure: desirable skills for any of life’s fights.

In fact, it was boxing that helped to turn around Mr. Cancellare’s troubled adolescence. When his family moved from the States to San Juan, Puerto Rico, the thirteen-year-old Mr. Cancellare started down a dangerous path. “It was a different lifestyle than I was used to,” Mr. Cancellare said. “A lot of poverty and crime to get mixed up in. A cop told me I was going to end up in the wrong situation, that there were two outcomes for me: death or jail.” Fortunately, the police officer offered the young Mr. Cancellare a third option. He took the teenager to a local boxing ring.

“It gave me the same adrenaline rush the streets gave me,” Mr. Cancellare said. “It’s a battle, and you’ve got to be 100% dedicated. In other sports, when you don’t do well, you just lose. Maybe your pride gets hurt. In boxing, you’re going to get beat up, and it really hurts.”

Once he began boxing, the young Mr. Cancellare found himself too exhausted to get into trouble. Given the choice to fight a peer after school, or keep his 5 pm boxing appointment, Mr. Cancellare always chose the ring.

“I can’t say boxing saved my life or anything like that. I still fell in and out of trouble, but I found boxing definitely could keep me away from what I shouldn’t be doing. I learned where to put my energy.”

Eventually, Mr. Cancellare moved back to the States, boxing in the amateur circuit in Brooklyn, followed by a two-year spell of pro fighting. When his wife, who is in the Coast Guard, was transferred to Menemsha station, Mr. Cancellare brought his passion to the Island as a trainer and mentor. “It’s a gift to be able to give back,” Mr. Cancellare said. “Whether you’re specifically trying to be a fighter, or you just want to work out, it feels really good to box.”

Boxing is a full body workout, and a tough one at that. It’s not only punches and blocks, but footwork, core rotations, and stability. It also consists of metabolism-revving interval training, usually three minutes of work, followed by just a minute of rest. “Boxing works every muscle in your body,” said Mr. Cancellare. “I’ve played a lot of sports in my life, and I think boxing is one of the hardest.” (Mr. Cancellare is not alone. A 2004 ESPN study ranked boxing the toughest sport in the world).

Mental tenacity has a lot to do with that ranking. “A lot of people think boxing is just throwing punches,” Mr. Cancellare said. “The majority of it is mental. As you fatigue, your mental clarity goes, and you have to fight through that. When you feel like you have nothing left, but you still have to go two or three rounds, you start to realize ‘wow I can do a lot more than I knew I could.’ You find it in your heart, your mind, to say ‘yes I can do that.’ You start to build confidence, you walk differently. It transitions into regular life; that’s one of the beauties of it.”

It may seem strange to outsiders that this elevated state of mind arises from what appears to be a violent, event brutish, sport. But Mr. Cancellare says there is little room for aggression in the boxing ring. “I can’t just go in there swinging like crazy, I have to be mentally controlled. In the heat of chaos, I’ve still got to be calm, cool, and collected. Which is crazy. Someone is trying to punch me and take my head off, but I’ve still got to be calm, cool, collected. Boxing teaches you that’s the best way to be in any situation in life.”

Calm, cool, and collected.

For more information on boxing on Martha’s Vineyard, call 850-316-5918, or check out the MV Boxing Club Facebook page, run by local boxing enthusiast Chuck Noonan.


When the sunshine brings out those first green leaflets and blades of grass, a feeling wells up inside of you. Could it be joy? A sudden urge to recite Walt Whitman? And then — ACHOO! — it’s a sneeze, the ominous reminder that the arrival of spring means the arrival of torturous bouts of blubbering and itchy eyes for many Vineyarders. Before you confine yourself indoors for the rest of the season, check out these pro-tips from our panel of health experts, and find a remedy that works for you.

jackie-kane.aJackie Kane, Holistic Health Practitioner, Vineyard Energy Medicine

As a former allergy sufferer and Holistic Health Practitioner, I can share that there is true relief in sight without the drowsiness from prescription medication.

For acute allergy relief, try a combination of organic apple cider vinegar (1 Tbs) diluted in water, cayenne, un-squeezed lemon, and sweeten with pure Stevia. This remedy has an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties that can prevent irritations and build up immunity. Try a glass in the morning and evening, and sip during the day.

For lasting results, we at Vineyard Energy Medicine feelit is important to detox the substances causing the allergic reaction as well: commonly mold, bacteria, and dust mites. You can experience quick relief with the right combination of professional liquid homeopathics.

The best long-term and permanent remedy we have found comes in the form of a professional grade homeopathic taken in the form of drops under the tongue. Within three weeks, you can feel relief from environmental allergies and food allergies. Within three months, clients have experienced complete relief and absolutely no side effects. So what’s the catch? Consistency. After two to three years most allergy sufferers are able to complete the process. For long-term allergy sufferers, we know that three months to feeling completely allergy free is truly sweet relief.

Laura-Denman.jpgLaura L. Denman MS, RD, Abundant Life Nutrition

Spring allergies…fortunately, this has never been a thorn in my side, but I have seen numerous people who are in utter misery as a result of what appears beautiful to some of us: the arrival of spring. I feel the best defense for spring allergies is healthy adrenal glands — easier said than done in this fast-paced world that we live in. Get plenty of rest, let some things go on that ‘to do’ list, breathe when you feel stressed, especially if you realize you haven’t taken a deep breath all morning. When allergies do strike, I use Standard Process Antronex and Allerplex which work beautifully. I also use a homeopathic remedy, Allium Cepa.

Kristin-Henriksen.JPGKristin Henriksen, Certified Herbalist/Aromatherapist, Reindeer Bridge Herbs

Seasonal allergies can be very challenging for many people, but for most, they are the body’s way of inhibiting pollen ingestion/absorption by causing extra mucous to line the membranes. Interestingly enough, allergies are often tied to congested livers, which are unable to handle flushing histamine out of the blood stream efficiently. In these times, more people seem to be sensitive to pollen, and this can be explained by the toxins from our environment and by the Standard American Diet (SAD). For allergy sufferers, I suggest and blend a gentle liver cleansing tea with burdock and other hepatic (relating to the liver) herbs, and combine that with stinging nettle herb in different forms. Paired with the herbs, aromatherapeutic oils put into an inhaler can relieve nasal congestion and inflammation very quickly, and can be used throughout the day.

Josh-Levy.jpgJosh Levy, Registered Nutritionist, Vineyard Nutrition

Focus on your nutrition and you may able to stop your runny nose, itchy eyes, and scratchy throat. The probiotics in yogurt have been shown to reduce allergy symptoms. Quercetin, a compound found in apples, citrus, onions, and tea can help reduce watery eyes and runny noses. Anti-inflammatory properties found in Omega3 fatty acids (wild salmon, tuna, flaxseeds, almonds, walnuts, tumeric) help reduce mucus membrane swelling. Water helps you stay hydrated and make less mucus. Lastly, your immune system can be boosted by loading up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein while limiting processed foods, fried foods, caffeine, alcohol, added sugars, and salt.

sheila-muldaur-3.jpgSheila Muldaur, Certified Classical Homeopath, Integrated Health Care

When allergies strike, cell or tissue salts — low potency homeopathic preparations — can help relieve symptoms. A few common allergy symptoms are paired with cell salts below:

Nat mur 6X: effective if allergies start with fits of sneezing.

Calc phos 6X: can be used leading up to allergy season and alternated with Nat mur when allergies begin. The tip of the nose will be icy cold.

Mag phos 6X: coming and going of allergies, sudden fits of sneezing and discharge.

Kali mur 6X: postnasal drip, clogged nose and ears with thick discharge.

Kali sulph 6X: sense of smell is gone with chronic nasal allergies.

Silicea 6X: helpful when itching of the nose and in the back of the throat dominate.

Chose the cell salt(s) that best matches your allergy symptoms and follow package directions. Available at health food stores.

Tamara-Conroy-Herch.jpgTamara Conroy Hersh, Owner/Pharmacist, Conroy’s Apothecary

The best strategy for allergy sufferers is to start treating yourself early in the allergy season. If you know you react to grass or oak pollen, start with an antihistamine before your symptoms start. There are several remedies available without a prescription: Claritin, Zyrtec, and Allegra are all plain antihistamines that work well without causing drowsiness. Benadryl is an excellent antihistamine but causes extreme drowsiness and is best reserved for bedtime use. Nasacort has just gone over the counter as well: this is the first steroid nasal spray available without a prescription and is very effective, especially if combined with the oral antihistamines mentioned above. Sudafed or other decongestants can be added to antihistamines to quickly reduce runny noses and teary eyes. I always like to recommend starting simple, and build on that if your symptoms are not responding.

Sian Williams, Power Yoga Instructor, teaching at the YMCA.

Some people just aren’t into sitting quietly, meditating, chanting, or moving at a slow pace. That’s cool, but don’t think that’s all there is to the art of yoga. There are thousands of ways to practice yoga, and a handful of those methods are available on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard — including power yoga. It’s not that power yoga leaves out the fundamentals — the flowing movements, the quiet room, and the deep stretches are all still there. But there will be sweat. Oh, there will be sweat.

Power yoga takes a quicker pace than most yoga classes, and it includes a lot of isometric holds: poses that lock your muscles in a contracted position. One Vineyard ambassador of power yoga, Sian Williams, teaches power yoga sessions which include lots of planks, and even pushups, to get your blood pumping. A common power yoga flow takes you from plank position, through chaturanga (lowering yourself through the shoulders, hovering), into upward facing dog. This sequence can be challenging, even for the physically fit, and especially tough on the shoulders. If you lift weights, or do any other athletic activity that stresses your shoulders, make sure they are well rested before taking a power yoga class. Power yoga is especially great for core stabilization too (again, lots of plank variations). For those in decent athletic shape, power yoga will be challenging, but not unbearable. Most classes end with one or two challenge moves. It’s okay if you can’t get it right the first try, most of the people that nail these moves are seasoned veterans. But it’s fun to put your strength, flexibility, and balance to the test while trying. And that clear, meditative state of mind that comes with the sitting quietly, meditating, chanting, and taking it slow? Yeah, you get that too.

Power yoga by Sian Williams is offered at the YMCA of M.V. Wednesdays at 6:30 pm and Saturdays at 10:15 am; the Mansion House Health Club Mondays at 4:30 pm; and Island Co-Housing Thursdays at 5:30 pm. 508-696-0037. Additional power yoga classes are offered at One Hot Yoga, The Martha’s Vineyard Yoga Center, Fit’s Possible, and Yoga Haven. Call your favorite studio to see if they have a power yoga class on the schedule.


The Steamship Authority has diverted the arrival of the 1:30 pm trip of the freight boat Katama from Woods Hole from Oak Bluffs to Vineyard Haven. The Katama’s 2:45 pm departure from Oak Bluffs has also been diverted to Vineyard Haven due to weather.

Circuit Ave in Oak Bluffs is closed to traffic for the Little League Parade Saturday morning.

The annual Martha’s Vineyard Little League parade is Saturday morning at 10 am. Coaches, players, and parents from every Major League, Minor League, Farm League, and T-ball team will assemble at the Oak Bluffs police station, then walk up Circuit Avenue, ending at Veira Park. The opening ceremonies will commence at 11 am. Lorne Lewis will give a season-opening speech, followed by the National Anthem and player introductions.

Every team in each league will be in action. In Major League play, the Cards meet the A’s at noon, followed by the Pirates and Cubs at 2 pm and the Red Sox vs. Tigers at 4 pm. Minor League games will be at Nunes Field in Edgartown and at the West Tisbury School. Farm League and T-ball games will be held at the Tisbury School.

Sumner Silverman enjoys a sample of Offshore Ale at the Slow Food annual meeting and potluck.

On Thursday, April 17, dozens gathered in the spacious Ag Hall in West Tisbury for Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard’s combination annual meeting and potluck.

Neil Atkins, head brewer at Offshore Ale Co., discussed the craft beer brewing process.

Neil Atkins, head brewer at Offshore Ale Co., discussed the craft beer brewing process. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The highlight of the evening was a talk about craft beer by Offshore Ale’s head brewer Neil Atkins. As Mr. Atkins spoke, Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard members passed out several samples of his beer, starting with an unfiltered saison. Mr. Atkins discussed the process of beer making, including how water chemistry is important to beer type and quality. For example, hard or more acidic water was generally best for ales, while soft or more alkaline water was generally best for lagers. Mr. Atkins said if Oak Bluffs, hometown of Offshore Ale, decided to chlorinate municipal water, it would be “absolutely horrible” for Offshore brewing operations. When asked by an attendee what his favorite type of beer to brew was, Mr. Atkins said “India Pale Ale, because I really like hops.”

Before the talk, attendees dined in the ambience of tea candles glowing from mason jars. Slow Food M.V. vice president Suzan Bellincampi took the podium to receive votes for new board members. Oak Bluffs resident Roxanne Kapitan was voted in to the board.

Billie Shephard enjoyed a plate full of dishes made with local ingredients.

Billie Shephard enjoyed a plate full of dishes made with local ingredients. —

Ms. Kapitan admits her involvement with Slow Food Martha’s Vineyard came swiftly and simply. “I attended a Slow Food pot luck and was amazed to find not one tuna casserole type dish. I was impressed how each dish contained at least one local ingredient. I decided this was my tribe, and joined.” When pressed for favorite dishes of the night, Ms. Kapitan’s response also came swiftly and simply. “The curried mango chutney cheesecake, and the watercress rolls” she said.

One of Ms. Bellincampi’s favorite dishes came from home: “My husband’s quiche, made with eggs from our chickens.”

Ms. Bellincampi also touched upon her involvement in Slow Food M.V. “Slow Food is important to me because it aligns with my values and way of living. I try to be aware of my place in the world and my effects on it. I strive to live a deliberate life, making choices that benefit my community, along with myself, and tread lightly. I have been a member of Slow Food for about 15 years and believe that folks need to be involved in things that they believe in. It is an opportunity to educate others, enjoy good food with community, and open people’s eyes to something I think is very important.”

State Representatives Tim Madden, and Cory Atkins (D-Concord) and State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport), Co-Chairmen of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development led a public hearing to discuss the economic impact of the arts, culture, and tourism on the Islands.

State Representative Cory Atkins and State Senator Kathleen O’Connor Ives, co-chairmen of the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development, joined State Representative Timothy Madden for a public hearing and forum on tourism at The Martha’s Vineyard Film Center Tuesday morning.

The hearing was one of several stops on a “listening tour” across Massachusetts to gather information on the needs of the tourism industry in various regions. The state lawmakers were joined by Betsy Wall, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism, and Anita Walker, Executive Director of Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Art-and-Tourism-hearing-1.JPGA near capacity crowd of local Island artists, business owners, and members of the tourism industry on Martha’s Vineyard turned out to ask questions, voice concerns, and discuss the issues.

Ms. Wall led off the forum with a discussion of her agency’s strategies for attracting tourism to the state, which includes promoting travel through the website She stressed the importance of accommodating a growing international population of tourists, especially from China. Ms. Wall stressed the importance of taking advantage of social media and other technology-driven campaigns which focus on the tendency of travelers to make “last-minute, digitally driven” decisions.

Ms. Walker had a message for Vineyard employers and employees. “The people are coming,” she said. “You are responsible for creating a product they want.”

Ms. Walker pointed out that Massachusetts was the only state with a Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development. She said public input is important for the lawmakers when they return to Beacon Hill.

During the public portion of the hearing, Christine Todd, Executive Director of the Oak Bluffs Association, and members of the Dukes County and Martha’s VineyardAirport Commissions asked how Island organizations could “respond to growth in the tech world, and better communicate with tourists” through mediums like the web.

Ms. Wall said that technology was “a very serious investment” on the part of the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. Last year, the office offered digital audits to tourism councils in Massachusetts, and responded with reports on how the councils could improve their web presence.

Several business owners highlighted what they described as the chicken and egg conundrum of seasonality on the Vineyard. Businesses cannot afford to stay open due to lack of tourism, and tourism diminishes due to a lack of open businesses. “Getting into as many markets and demographics as possible is the best strategy,” Ms. Walker said.

Rep. Atkins added that while remaining open for business in the off-season is risky, businesses should consider “who can risk doing the stretch for a while” to boost tourism opportunities.

“You’re sitting in one of those places,” Rep. Madden, who represents the Vineyard, added, referring to the Film Center, which he said is a good example of a business thriving in the off-season.

Senator Ives recommended Vineyarders increase the tourism economy by “leveraging natural assets,” such as the fishing industry.

Tisbury selectman Tristan Israel and Kerry Scott, owner of Good Dog Goods, in Oak Bluffs said that the Vineyard should focus more on eco-tourism. One example might be to emphasize the Vineyard’s wealth of “farm to fork dining,” said Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce.

Senator Ives mentioned that other ecotourism projects, including the recent fishing pier in Oak Bluffs, often require cooperation from other agencies. “We’re here to advocate for the Massachusetts Cultural Council, but we need to understand what other agencies need our advocacy as well,” she said.

The panel was treated to a long list of ideas and suggestions that included making the most of unused real-estate such as the two Oak Bluffs movie theaters, creative placemaking through establishing groups of artists, and how to receive small business grants. The lawmakers said these local anecdotes could help them make legislative decisions.

“We’re going to bring what we heard today to our colleagues in the Committee on Tourism, Arts, and Cultural Development, and the larger legislature,” said Senator Ives. “And we ask you to bring it to your colleagues too.”


Ann Markusen discussed art and economy at Arts M.V.’s annual meeting.

Ann Markusen brought her expertise on the relationship between art and economy to the Arts M.V. annual meeting on Monday.

The annual meeting of Arts Martha’s Vineyard at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center on Monday, March 31, featured keynote speaker Ann Markusen, a researcher who studies how art and economy drive one another.

Ms. Markusen, the director of the Arts Economy Initiative at the University of Minnesota and the president of Markusen Economic Research Services, discussed her findings in studies such as “Creative Placemaking,” and “Artists’ Centers,” which focus on geographic areas where the economy has been revitalized due to a connection with the artistic community. Ms. Markusen said creative placemaking is all about creating partnerships, and giving regions a physical and social character “with arts and culture activities at the core.”

Members of the Arts Martha’s Vineyard board were quick to point out that the Vineyard already has many of these characteristics, but there is room for growth.

One way Arts Martha’s Vineyard hopes to further the Island’s artistic character is by having Vineyard Haven designated a cultural district by the Massachusetts Cultural Council. According to Nancy Gardella of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, “a walkable, geographic area of about one mile” would enhance the focus on the galleries and other artistic venues in the Vineyard Haven Harbor area. Her colleague Christine Flynn affirmed, “what’s good for one town is good for the Island.”

After Ms. Markusen’s talk, which outlined the emergence of arts districts in locales from inner-city Detroit to rural villages across the country, the floor was opened for a Q&A session.

Artist Renee Balter brought up the two deserted theaters in Oak Bluffs, noting that if Oak Bluffs was to undergo any future renovations, these buildings “seem like the perfect place to start.” Ms. Markusen replied that one solution for keeping these theaters thriving might be to offer them up for occasions other than movies, such as lower-profile performances and charity events. She also emphasized that to make such drastic changes, “you need a core of devoted people.” Ms. Flynn reassured the audience that a master plan for the Oak Bluffs streetscape was in the works, and “the town is excited about taking the next step.”

Ann Smith, of Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs, questioned how the arts scene could better engage the Island’s aging population, or as she called it, “the silver tsunami.” Ms. Markusen suggested that art could be used as a form of healing. “Our health care providers are relatively rich,” Ms. Markusen said, noting that providers could “overcome the distance between audiences and creators” by buying art and putting on performances, like dances, for the elderly population.

Other Islanders, like Phyllis Vecchia, raised the question of affordability for artists seeking Island housing or studio space. Ms. Markusen affirmed that “artists have different needs for spaces” than other professionals, and that it was important to look into renovation opportunities.

Most importantly, said Ms. Markusen, “It’s about building support for the arts in the community and the government.”