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Featherstone

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mvyradio's Porch Concert at the Harbor View Hotel earlier this July. — Photo by Louisa Gould

Outdoor concerts are a summer staple of virtually every urban area. Currently, the Vineyard boasts many al fresco music events that, here on the Island, where one wants to spend as much time refreshed by the sea air as possible, music lovers can enjoy the casual atmosphere of an outdoor performance just about any evening of the week.

For example, mvyradio is in the midst of a mini concert series taking place on the porch of the Harbor View Hotel. For the second year in a row, the radio station is hosting a mix of local musicians and imported talent for free concerts on the wraparound deck of the Edgartown hotel. All can relax on the porch with a drink or a snack and enjoy acoustic sets from some of the artists from mvy’s playlist. “It’s a way we can get out there and give something to our listeners and have the opportunity to interact with them,” said director Barbara Dacey, who hosts the concerts. “This year we’re doing more than we did last year. We’re hoping it’s something that could build on itself.”

This summer’s lineup so far has included the Vineyard’s Jemima James, Ben Fuller of Lake Tahoe, and Boston-based Will Daley. On Thursday, July 31, local musician Mike Benjamin will perform. Ms. Dacey says that the station will most likely schedule more concerts for this summer as they reach out to other favorite musicians.

The sprawling lawn of Featherstone in Oak Bluffs is a picturesque place for a concert. The bucolic arts campus has hosted Musical Mondays for 19 years — predating even the gallery there. This summer, Featherstone added a Thursday evening jazz series. People bring refreshments, kids frolic, and there’s plenty of socializing and dancing while listening to some of the Island’s most popular artists. The jazz series is the brainchild of Musical Mondays regular John Zeeman, who has curated a summer jazz program to give more musicians a chance to play.

“I always say it’s the best family event on the Island,” said executive director Ann Smith, of Musical Mondays. “The adults can be sitting listening to music while the kids are meeting other kids and playing on the field.” Ms. Smith notes that the jazz Thursdays have attracted a new, somewhat less family oriented crowd, to the campus. She suggested, “Bring a picnic and a lawn chair.”

The Vineyard Haven Band has entertained audiences with a combination of old standards, patriotic favorites, and Broadway tunes for 145 years. The large brass, woodwind, and percussion unit plays every Sunday evening during the summer — alternating between Owen Park in Vineyard Haven and the gazebo in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs. This summer, filling in the gaps between the bi-weekly Oak Bluffs concerts, Rob Myers, AKA Jellybone Rivers, is offering a free family concert every other Sunday.

Although the first outing of the Jellybone Rivers band was rained out this past Sunday, Mr. Myers said that the concerts will include a mixture of Americana, family music, some soul songs, and some all-time favorites. The multiple piece band includes a full horn section. The bandstand sits right in the center of the ocean-facing park, which gives people the chance to catch the music from all angles.

For the past eight years, Eisenhauer Gallery in Edgartown has hosted Thursday evening concerts. From June through August, the sounds of blues and rock and roll give the busy business area a lively, street fair vibe. Vineyard Square Hotel guests and others sit on the porch sipping drinks from Chesca’s while kids play on the gallery’s outdoor sculpture and people dance in the square.

And, lastly, The Yard in Chilmark will host a first-time event on August 2. An outdoor DJ dance party, billed as “Pride not Prejudice: A Pride Event” will feature tunes by DJs from New York City and Provincetown and entertainment by drag performer Schwa De Vivre. The Yard will provide mixers and water for BYOB drinks. The event is open to people of all ages. Admission is $10.

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Amy Custis and Sharon Capen worked on still lifes at a recent Ladies Night at Featherstone. — Danielle Zerbonne

It’s sort of like arts and crafts for adults. And you don’t need to bring any skills or even talent to the table. That’s the idea behind Featherstone’s most recent series of classes.

Flowers at Featherstone.
Flowers at Featherstone.

Throughout the mean months of winter, the arts campus has been hosting something they call Ladies Night. On the first Monday of each month, a different artist is recruited to take a group through an easy project, easy enough that anyone can go home with an example of the art form. And, also easy enough that participants can enjoy a glass or two of wine while working on the project.

“They’re simple,” said Featherstone director Ann Smith. “You don’t need to be an artist. It’s always something you can create in an hour and a half. We’ll introduce you to a new artist’s medium and teach you something that you can replicate at home.”

In January, Amy Custis demonstrated the art of paper folding and helped a small group of women create unique Valentine’s Day cards made with dozens of strips of colorful patterned paper arranged in an origami-style heart shape. The class also fashioned simple landscape adorned cards with watercolors and ink stamps.

Last month, the project was still lifes with Nancy Blank. But, lest anyone find that prospect intimidating, it should be said that the tools for these still lifes were tissue paper and modge podge. “The whole point of the evening is showing the different techniques you can use to be creative with average household items,” Ms. Smith continued.

Next Monday, April 7, participants will create paper flowers. Not the kind you made in kindergarten with bathroom tissues however, but an array of flora created from crepe paper using a variety of techniques. The class will be led by Veronica Modini and Minor Knight, both fiber artists.

“Part of the reason we selected paper flowers is that coming up are the Art of Flowers and our annual Garden Party and Fashion Show,” Ms. Smith said, referring to two of Featherstone’s popular spring events.

“The reason we chose April,” noted Ms. Modini, “is that spring showers bring May flowers. You can have some to decorate your home. Some people use them to decorate at weddings or parties. We’ll have some options for you to be creative at low cost.”

Sharon Capen, drawing.
Sharon Capen, drawing.

In May, with the weather a little more accommodating, Minor Knight will forage around Featherstone to find natural items from which to create found object art. Some may remember the beautiful spray painted dried flower decorations that Ms. Knight was selling at Featherstone’s Holiday Gift Show.

Everything crafted at the Ladies Night events is suitable for gifting or decorating your home but, just as importantly, the gatherings give participants a chance to socialize, meet some of the Featherstone artists, and have fun. The students tend to help one another and there’s always a lot of laughter and inspiration. Participants are welcome to enjoy refreshments throughout the class.

So far, the Ladies Nights have proved popular, attracting more people each time. “We really wanted to do it for Vineyard residents,” Ms. Smith said. “We will restart on September 8 and do it through next winter.”

Ladies Night, Monday, April 7, 6–7:30 pm, Featherstone, Oak Bluffs. Paper flowers with Veronica Modini and Minor Knight. $20. For more information, call 508-693-1850 or visit featherstoneart.org.

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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. — Photo by Kelsey Perrett

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.”

From left: Ann Smith, director; Nancy Blank, artist and instructor; Francine Kelly, director emeritus; and Amy Custis, gallery staff. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

In 1996, an association named Meetinghouse for the Arts purchased the six and a half acres on Barnes Road that now house the Featherstone Center for the Arts, the nonprofit dedicated to promoting the arts and developing community through the arts. Now 18 years later, Featherstone has expanded its facilities, programming and schedule of classes, the scope of arts represented, and the number of artists and community members it serves. To celebrate the anniversary, the main gallery is hosting a show called 18 x 18, which features work those dimensions (in inches) or smaller. The current show, which includes the work of 53 artists, is one among a 2014 schedule of 16 group shows plus 11 solo shows in the smaller Pebble gallery.

That’s quite a change from the days when Francine Kelly took on the job as executive director in 2003. At that time, the gallery was open two days a week and hosted two shows a year. Now the main gallery is open every day, 11 months out of the year, and hosts a themed show every two and a half weeks. This year’s shows include themes set around media — photography, ceramics, sculpture, pastels, graphic arts — as well as concepts — flowers, animals, poetry in art. This range gives a chance for artists from many sectors to participate. And that includes both amateurs and professionals. Every show is non-juried and open to all.

“The great part about being a community art center is that there are always new artists coming,” said Ann Smith, Featherstone’s current director. “From the novice to the professional, they hang side by side. It’s a nice setting for those who are just starting out. I think the best thing about Featherstone is that great sense of community.” She points out that the openings provide artists with the opportunity to mix and mingle. “They get to know the other artists and their patrons.”

Last Sunday, at the opening for the current show, a number of the artists attended and there was a good mix of both the well-known and newcomers among Vineyard artists.

Jean Cargill was showing for the first time at Featherstone. Her delicate little watercolors feature nature scenes, a natural subject for the former biologist who now lives on the edge of the Southern Woodlands, the area where Featherstone is located.

“I’ve always liked being out in the woods,” says Ms. Cargill, who hikes through the surrounding trails every day. “I’ve always had something to do with nature. The thing with my artwork is I have to be consistent with nature. If someone paints a six petal flower with five petals it really irks me.” Despite the small dimensions of her watercolors, every detail is correct, including the number of needle clusters in a picture of a pine tree with crows.

Harry Seymour with his pastel scratch art and tool.
Harry Seymour with his pastel scratch art and tool.

Many of the participants at the shows are students. The arts campus offers dozens of classes that operate all year long.

Chetta Kelley has been taking classes for many years — both as a summer resident and since she relocated full time to Vineyard Haven four years ago. Ms. Kelley has studied various mediums with a number of Featherstone’s art teachers. “It’s so much fun,” she says. “The diversity of all the teachers makes it really like going to an art school.” Ms. Kelley’s interesting oil painting of a storm at sea viewed from the perspective of a man taking refuge under a blanket on the beach shows the inspiration of a natural artist with the skill of a trained professional.

Some artists use the individual shows as a chance to experiment with new mediums. Linda Thompson, an accomplished artist who is known for her landscapes in oil, contributed three small acrylic paintings on wood and masonite. “These are all the birds in my backyard,” she explained, pointing to the charming primitive depictions of turkeys, pheasants, and guinea hens. “Someone gave me some acrylics for Christmas. I’ve never painted with acrylics.”

Ms. Thompson is a frequent contributor to Featherstone shows, as is ceramicist and painter Washington Ledesma, who has given classes at the arts campus for eight years and has been showing his work there for five or six. “I have promised to participate in any shows that are relevant to my work,” he said. He is currently showing two small nudes that are a bit of a realist departure from his fantasy work. “It’s a nice way to participate because you support the whole community on the Island.”

Throughout the years, Featherstone has expanded to include the performing arts and even writers. “Featherstone was meant to support Island artists and create a community for Island artists,” Ms. Smith said. “From that we can define it as broadly or narrowly as we wish. We’ve chosen to define it broadly. Our main commitment is to the visual arts, but we’ve grown to be a venue for the other arts as well.”

Assemblage mixed media by Andrew Jephcote, "Dronefight XVIII."
Assemblage mixed media by Andrew Jephcote, “Dronefight XVIII.”

Among the events scheduled for this summer are poetry readings, open air opera, the popular musical Mondays series, and the Tuesday Flea and Fine Arts Market, which has grown from a gathering of six vendors in 2003 to 70 participants plus a waiting list for this summer.

Coming up next at the gallery is a show that is truly all-inclusive. The show will feature selfie photos. All are invited to send their self-portrait pictures to featherstone@featherstonearts.org.

The 18×18 show runs daily, 12 noon to 4 pm, through March 19. The entire Featherstone 2014 schedule of shows, classes, and events is currently posted on its website, featherstoneart.org.

Artist Billie Sullivan stands with her painting created with house paint on corrugated cardboard. — Photo by Lisa Vanderhoop

One sure way to get someone talking is to ask about their pet. And, apparently, one sure way to get Vineyard artists out of winter hibernation is to ask them to use their various talents to depict their pet.

When the Featherstone Center for the Arts sent out the usual call for artists for the gallery’s latest show, For Pets’ Sake, the staff was amazed at the response: 33 artists contributed work. “That’s kind of crazy for February,” said Featherstone assistant Veronica Modini.

Rudy is memorialized on a wool rug made by Genevieve Jacobs.
Rudy is memorialized on a wool rug made by Genevieve Jacobs.

Pets of many descriptions currently fill the walls of the Virginia Weston Besse Gallery, bringing some cheer to the dead of winter. The species are as varied as the artist’s styles. There’s a cat wall, a chicken wall, a barnyard animals wall, a few birds, some horses, one frog rendered in a Japanese style and, of course, lots of dogs. “I think the number of artists attests to the popularity of the theme,” said director Ann Smith. This is the first show of 2014 for Featherstone and the first glimpse of the gallery since the facility closed for six weeks after Christmas to paint and prepare for the upcoming season.

Like faithful canine companions, two large dog paintings greet guests at the entranceway to the gallery. Wendy Weldon’s collage work “Molly and Her Friends” features a painting of her own pup surrounded by a pack of other pooch photos. Billie Sullivan’s Boxer painting is one of two marvelous modern works done with house paint on cardboard. Ms. Sullivan, who owns Tivoli Paints, used splatters and drips to good effect adding lots of color and interest to her pet portraits.

Other doggy standouts include a lovely skilled oil painting by Paige Guizzardi of the head of a golden retriever and a large manipulated photo by Steve and Peggy Zablotny featuring their two terriers with haloes over their fuzzy heads.

Holly and John Alaimo admired unique cat-themed art.
Holly and John Alaimo admired unique cat-themed art.

In the cat category, Jules Worthington’s pile of sleeping Siamese (titled “Catatonic”) and Fred Jason Hancock’s “Checkerboard Floor with a Black Cat”  use the pet genre to produce highly stylized works that will appeal to non-cat fanciers as well as feline-ophiles.

An impressionistic trio of ducks by Eva Cincotti and a small painting of a horse by Leslie Baker attest to the talent of some of the Island artists working in oil.

The chicken wall will cheer up any sufferer of the winter blues. With typical wit, Washington Ledesma created a large colorful rooster painting, and Ruth Major contributed two charming portraits of chickens looking very regal with the equally aristocratic monikers of  “Capt. Russel Crow” and “Lord Tisbury.”

The back room of the gallery features a charming old-fashioned cross stitch by Charlotte Cole and a pair of sketch collages by a mother and daughter duo. Cynthia Wayman has turned a number of her lovely bird sketches onto a collage piece, while daughter Holly Wayman has done the same with little sketches of birds and cats done in a variety of styles.

A couple of artists chose less commonplace media to interpret the theme, and in both cases the results are spectacular. Two hooked rugs by Genevieve Jacobs dominate the back room. One features a collie and the other a black and a white standard poodle pair. The pooches are rendered as portraits in yarn work frames complete with their names. They are very appealing and eye catching.

"Hannah" by Paige Guizzardi.
“Hannah” by Paige Guizzardi.

Multimedia artist Amy Custis contributed two gorgeous stained glass pieces. Both are round framed head shot portraits — one of a boxer and one of a horse whose flowing mane comes to life thanks to the use of a swirled type of glass used for that that portion of the work. With or without light streaming through them, they are striking.

Photographers are also well represented in the current show. Luckily for the Island, we have two pet photo pros — Lynn Christoffers, whose recently released book “Cats of Martha’s Vineyard” has been selling very well; and Lisa Vanderhoop, whose Sea Dogs calendar is a perennial favorite. Included in the show are some wonderful representations of both women’s work, along with lots of other cats and dogs by both amateurs and professionals.

There’s even a video piece by Graham Smith. He memorialized a friend’s late husky/malamute mix by creating a digital loop of the dog running, which is displayed in a small format in the gallery’s back room. The piece, “Luna Runs Forever,” shows the athletic animal doing what she loved best.

Featherstone always selects an appropriate theme for their first show of the year. In recognition of the love we lavish on our pets, former Featherstone director Francine Kelly and Ms. Modini came up with this year’s theme. In keeping with the holiday atmosphere, the Featherstone staff passed around little heart-shaped cookies, cupcakes, and chocolates at the opening this past Sunday, Feb. 9. Many of the artists were in attendance and it was obvious that they got as much pleasure from having their work admired as they did from talking about their subjects. Who doesn’t love their cat, dog, chicken — or frog?

Felix McAllister, the writer's dog, entertained the crowd at Sunday's opening reception.
Felix McAllister, the writer’s dog, entertained the crowd at Sunday’s opening reception.

For Pets’ Sake kicks off what should prove to be a full and varied year of shows and events for Featherstone. The complete 2014 schedule is now posted on the website. Also launched this past week was a new winter series of events called Ladies Night. On the first Monday of each month, Featherstone will host an evening devoted to a small craft project along with refreshments and socializing. On Monday, Feb. 10, a group of women gathered to make unique cards. Other Ladies Nights projects include tissue paper still lifes, found object art, and paper flowers. All are suitable for artists and non-artists alike.

For Pet’s Sake runs daily, 12 noon–4 pm, through February 26. Featherstone is located in Oak Bluffs. For more information, call 508-693-1850 or visit featherstoneart.org.