Galleries : The art of giving
It's hard to give things away on Martha's Vineyard; the offering of possessions and expending of efforts just seem to have a way of giving back - especially when a worthy cause is involved.
Martha's Vineyard Family Planning, the nonprofit clinic that provides affordable reproductive health care services to Islanders, and its volunteer support group, Friends of Family Planning, seem to have perfected the cycle of getting positive returns on giving.
The annual Friends of Family Planning Art Show, which opens tonight and runs through Sunday, showcases over 100 Island artists and marks the unofficial beginning of the Martha's Vineyard gallery season. It is a reassuring reminder of the continuing generosity of Island artists, the community's embracing response to their work, and the fellowship of Islanders gathering for a worthy cause.
"It's wonderful how artists and services for the people are working together," says sculptor Ellen Bang-Birge, whose work is in the show. "It's more of a community feel than you see in many places in the states. Having come to Martha's Vineyard from Europe, the show reminds me of the community sense I remember from back home."
Participating artists receive 60 percent of the sale of their work, with 40 percent going to the operating costs of the clinic. "The artists have to get what they need," says Liza Coogan, who helped found the show over 20 years ago. "We've said that from the beginning. They're asked to donate so much, so we wanted to provide a venue for them to show their art that benefited the community."
Board member Marston Clough, a retired teacher, began as a volunteer at the art show, and was encouraged to submit his art. "Walking down Main Street, seeing the faces of community members and knowing that we're working towards a common goal, it reintegrates me into the community and inspires me to create art," he says.
"Our purpose is to keep people's options open," says clinic director Patty Begley. "We want to give people information and the tools to protect themselves. We want people to know about safe sex and HIV, and to let people make decisions for themselves. We don't tell people what to do. We want to make it possible for them to use birth control as they see fit."
The clinic operates on a sliding scale, based on income and family size, but has always been willing to adapt to fill needs wherever they see them. "No one is turned away because they don't have money. Our goal is to keep people's options open," says Ms. Begley.