Family Planning Art Show this Weekend

Artist Marjorie Mason puts finishing touches on "Quitsa Evening Catboats," one of the many pieces in the Family Planning Art Show this weekend. — File photo by Courtesy of Marjorie Mason

To art collectors, it’s a once-a-year opportunity to see the latest work from more than 130 of the Island’s top artists under one roof. To artists, it’s an invitation to come out of winter hibernation to share their latest efforts. But for the Island, it’s a more than 20-year tradition of support for Family Planning of Martha’s Vineyard, the only clinic of its kind on the Island, providing affordable reproductive health education and sexual health care to men and women of all ages.

The weekend-long Friends of Family Planning Art Show begins with tonight’s Gala Opening Preview benefit party from 6 to 8 pm at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury. (Tickets, $40, are available at the door.) Guests enjoy first dibs on a wide range of art, as well as food prepared by popular Island caterer Jan Buhrman and specialty foods from The Kitchen Porch. Music by Jeremy Berlin.

The Family Planning Art Show, from Friday, May 28, through Sunday, May 30, presents the work of the Island’s most sought-after artists, as well as many up-and-comers. Artists earn 60 percent of their sales and donate the balance to Friends of Family Planning.

Fine art photographer Alison Shaw of Oak Bluffs has participated in the non-juried show since its inception. “It’s such an important cause,” she explains, “and a great venue to show artists’ newest work. As an artist, I can’t give a lot of money to Island nonprofit organizations so I support them through my art.”

Friends of Family Planning depends on the funds raised by the Preview Gala and art show to support client services, supplies, staff training, and overhead for the clinic. According to Patty Begley, Family Planning program director, this year’s need is especially dire.

“We’re facing major financial problems,” she says. “Our expenses keep going up but reimbursements don’t cover the cost of services, medical supplies, or lab work. We’re facing a $100,000 deficit along with our fellow Family Planning clinics in Southeast Massachusetts. We’re all being furloughed, there have been no staff raises in a couple of years, and we have no money to order drug supplies for the next month.”

Still, each year the clinic serves 1,200 men and women between the ages of 14 to 65, providing birth control, free HIV testing and counseling, STD testing, routine sexual health exams, free condoms, pregnancy testing, and much more — all on a confidential basis. Care is provided by licensed physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses and a professionally trained counseling staff. Services are offered on a sliding scale and no one is ever turned away because of an inability to pay.

“The Art Show gives people a chance to support the art community and feel good about it,” says Miryam Gerston, who volunteers as president of the Board of Friends of Family Planning. She remembers one show when a newcomer to the Island walked away with enough artwork to fill his new home. “That’s a dream come true for us,” she says wistfully. “But what a wonderful idea! Come and fill your Island home with unique local art or take a piece of the Vineyard home to your off-Island house.”

Jeri Dantzig, a glass fusion artist who crafts tableware and decorative accessories, supports the show both as an artist and as a new board member. “It’s an absolutely fabulous cause,” she says. “As artists we work in isolation. The Gala gives us a chance to connect with other artists and meet buyers. It’s a win-win for everybody.”

Leslie Baker, best known for her luminous paintings of Vineyard landscapes, remembers when the Island lacked the services provided by Family Planning. “We forget what it was like back then,” she says. “It’s a wonderful organization. It’s important for teenagers as a source for reliable information and services.” Ms. Baker will be showing two plein air paintings depicting the scenic property across from The Granary Gallery in West Tisbury.

Wendy Weldon plans to exhibit two of her signature barn paintings at the show. A supporter since 2000, Ms. Weldon tries to choose works that are eye-catching and have more universal appeal. “I’ve sold prints at past shows,” she says, “but decided this year to select paintings to help raise more money for Family Planning.”

Both furniture maker Larry Hepler and printmaker and collage artist Beldan Radcliffe are revealing new works to potential buyers. Painter Traeger diPietro, one of the Island’s prolific young artists, is showing two Impressionistic pieces. “It’s great to have my art working for a good cause,” he says. And his take on the Gala: “Dancing, art, beer, smiles — need I say more?”

Landscape painter Marston Clough, show coordinator, puts it succinctly: “We feature the greatest number of artists, the greatest variety in one spot, and a great range in prices.”

Family Planning Art Show Opening Gala, Thursday, May 27, 6 to 8 pm. Ag Hall, West Tisbury. Food, music. Tickets $40 at the door.

Family Planning Art Show, Friday, May 28 through Sunday, May 30, 10 am to 6 pm. Ag Hall, West Tisbury. Free Admission.