Representatives of many of the Island’s arts organizations, as well as individual artists and members of the general public, gathered at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center on Monday afternoon for the Arts Martha’s Vineyard annual meeting. An hour long presentation gave attendees the opportunity to see what the four-year-old organization has accomplished in the past year, and to hear about arts-based initiatives in Boston and around New England.
The speakers invited for this year’s event were Cathy Edwards, executive director of the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA), and E. San San Wong, who is the arts and culture senior program officer for Boston’s privately funded Barr Foundation.
Arts Martha’s Vineyard was founded in 2011 to promote, foster, and increase awareness — both on- and off-Island — of the arts and culture on Martha’s Vineyard. Among the initiatives launched by Arts M.V. are the Fall for the Arts and Spring for the Arts annual events, and the establishment of a state-recognized Cultural District in Vineyard Haven.
Prior to introducing the speakers at the Monday gathering, Ann Smith, executive director of the Featherstone Center for the Arts, gave a short introduction. Among other things, she cited the statistic that the “creative economy” comprises 10 percent of Martha’s Vineyard’s economy. She said that the arts are the third largest Island industry, after tourism and the service industry.
Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, gave a rundown on some of Arts M.V.’s accomplishments for the past year. Citing feedback from local businesses and transportation providers, she noted that the four-year-old Fall for the Arts initiative has proven a successful draw for shoulder-season tourism. She also announced that the signage designating the Vineyard Haven Harbor Cultural District will be in place in the next couple of weeks.
David White, artistic and executive director of The Yard dance residency and performance center, moderated a panel talk by the two visiting speakers, Ms. Edwards and Ms. Wong. Each woman spoke at length about initiatives recently launched by their individual organizations. Ms. Wong, who serves on the steering committee for the City of Boston’s cultural planning process, also spoke about how the current Boston administration has proven very supportive of the arts.
Ms. Smith added to the conversation by announcing that Arts Martha’s Vineyard will be hosting a talk at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse with Matt Wilson of MASS Creative as part of the Spring for the Arts initiative. Mr. Wilson will address the issue of grassroots organizing around the arts, on a date to be determined.
Both Ms. Edwards and Ms. Wong stressed that they had seen arts entities in Boston and New England have success by collaborating with fellow artists and sharing work and information, both personally and digitally.
A post-talk Q & A drew not so much questions for the two speakers as commentary on some local collaborative initiatives. Sue Dawson, co-owner of the Alison Shaw Gallery in Oak Bluffs, spoke about the former Oak Bluffs Arts District, which, in her words, “imploded” after some of the anchor businesses pulled out of the Dukes County Avenue neighborhood. Peter Simon of the Simon Gallery described his plan for hosting a weekly gallery stroll/salon along Main Street, Vineyard Haven. He said that a brief experiment last fall did not prove very successful, but that he hopes to reintroduce the idea in the summer. Artist Washington Ledesma encouraged other artists to set up collaborative businesses, as he and nine other local artists have done in establishing the Night Heron gallery in Vineyard Haven. He talked about the advantages of pooling resources, and drew a laugh when, in his heavy Uruguayan accent, he said of the gallery, “It’s eight women and two men, the perfect marriage.”