ArtFarm: Planting creativity
While many city dwellers fantasize of one day running a farm, Brooke and Brian Ditchfield customized that dream and found a unique way of realizing it on Martha's Vineyard. Unlike conventional farmers, however, the crop they will be tending is of the artistic, rather than the agricultural, variety.
Ms. Ditchfield says, "We thought, what a great idea it would be if everyone was on a farm, and instead of vegetables, we were harvesting art."
The couple, both of whom have extensive backgrounds in the theater and have maintained a presence in the arts community on the Vineyard for a number of years, have just launched ArtFarm, a project involving the creation of a visual and performing arts cooperative. Says Ms. Ditchfield, "The idea is that it's a collaborative experience that will be open to everyone."
Photo by M.C. Wallo
Mr. Ditchfield, a native of Edgartown, and Ms. Ditchfield, who grew up in Western Massachusetts, met at a Boston University theater camp while in high school. The concept of ArtFarm began to grow when they were students at Boston University.
Mr. Ditchfield says, "We found we were always referencing this thing called ArtFarm, and we decided when we moved here that this would be the perfect place to do it."
Adds Ms. Ditchfield, "Being on Martha's Vineyard we've realized we're part of the community in a way that we weren't in other places. We had a very different sense of community living in urban areas."
They acknowledge that the diversity of their theater experiences - his in Chicago and then at Vineyard Playhouse, hers as an actress in New York City, Chicago, Boston and Williamstown, N.Y., - have helped prepare them for their ambitious venture.
While living in New York, Ms. Ditchfield started a small theater company and worked on event production for a theater company in Chicago. The couple also worked on "The Last Will and Testament of Marlboro Patch" a movie written and produced by Mr. Ditchfield.
Both of the Ditchfields have backgrounds in arts education. Ms. Ditchfield has taught theater classes for many years at a number of different schools and theaters. Mr. Ditchfield teaches courses for ACE MV, and he has long been involved in the Fourth Grade Theater Project. He was recently named director of the Island Theater Workshop's Children's Theater.
Last fall, they decided the time was right for ArtFarm. They will inaugurate it with their own dramatic projects: a summer play and a television series.
"Where we're starting is with what we know best." says Ms. Ditchfield, "A television series and a play."
In March the Ditchfields will begin production of "Filanders," a four-episode series for MVTV. A cross between a sitcom and an interview show, it will depict an off-Island film crew (actors) making a documentary about Vineyarders (actual Islanders).
In July, ArtFarm will present "Kim and Delia," a play written by Mr. Ditchfield about the magical journey of a little girl and her imaginary friend.
ArtFarm does not as yet have a physical home, and the couple is looking at available farms and public open spaces to stage their first play. "I love the idea of performances in nontraditional theater spaces," says Ms. Ditchfield. "Not only is it great for us, because it's a different way to do theater, but it's also great because it will raise awareness of what we're doing."
The Ditchfields plan to subsidize their nonprofit project with two for-profit businesses under the ArtFarm umbrella. Mr. Ditchfield provides web design services, with a focus on artists and nonprofits, and there is an event planning business - catering to individuals and organizations planning fundraisers, corporate events, or private parties. Ms. Ditchfield says, "With our theater background we can give them a theatrical atmosphere and establish a theme."
Perhaps the most ambitious event being planned is The Harvest, an end of season celebration and retrospective of local arts. "It would be sort of a fringe festival," says Ms. Ditchfield. "There would be music, theater, dance, visual arts, performers like stilt walkers and unicyclists. We like the idea of letting the talent that exists here on Martha's Vineyard really come out," Ms. Ditchfield explains. "We want it to encompass all of it, arts, music, theater, dance, film, television - whatever anyone can bring to the table - and we want education to be the backbone."
Ms. Ditchfield continues, "I see that movement of the next generation of art on this Island taking shape and I'm really thrilled that ArtFarm will take a role in that."
For more information, go to artfarmenterprises.com.