Jivonne Alley’s poster tells the story of the 150th Fair

— Photo courtesy of Jivonne Alley

Vineyard, the Agricultural Fair, and art was the lucky combination that landed Jivonne Alley the honor of being 2011 Fair Poster Artist.

“Both Martha’s Vineyard and the Ag Fair hold a special place in my heart,” said Ms. Alley who lives in Newburyport.

Ms. Alley, who was introduced to the Vineyard by friends as a young teen more than 25 years ago, feels very much at home here. Arriving first as a visitor, she returned summers through high school and college to live and work. As an adult she visits frequently and tries never to miss the August Fair.

Educated at Rhode Island School of Design in architectural design and graphic art, Ms. Alley co-owns Joppa Design, Inc., a design-build firm, with her husband, Noel Ochtman. She works as an architectural designer, and enjoys painting, sketching, and other forms of art “for fun,” but had never sold or entered these creations in a competition before. She did work on projects for Newburyport’s Firehouse Center for the Arts during her years as board member and president.

“I’ve always been an admirer of the Ag Fair poster art and how unique it was,” Ms. Alley said. She had considered entering the contest in the past but this year was determined to give it a try. She researched old fair posters from the Ag Fair and elsewhere and was inspired by the simplicity of the older Vineyard posters, and qualities of the new ones too.

“The sheep (by Leslie Baker, 2003) was one of my favorites,” she recalled. “It was such a beautiful, strong face.”

“My aim was to hearken back to the idea of vintage county fair posters and put a modern spin on it,” she said. But she wanted it to be unmistakably the Vineyard’s. “It’s not a stereotypical mid-Western county fair!” she declared.

Jivonne Alley has no cows in her backyard or background, but thought a cow was the perfect animal for the 150th Fair. She visited nearby farms and studied countless photos.

“I came up with a girl that represents every cow that there is,” she laughed.

While her stolid, serene bovine represents the essence of Vineyard agriculture, the poster’s other simple images are significant too.

“For me the Fair has always been the Hall — whether the old or new one – a tree in front, and the Ferris wheel,” Ms. Alley said. “Those icons represent what I think makes the Ag Fair different, they represent comfort and the tradition the Fair brings into people’s lives.”

“I see the Vineyard as being fun and exciting, and the Ag Fair offers some simple enjoyment in life,” she added.

Ms. Alley used multiple media in her piece, from collage and computer graphics to careful hand illustration. She sent it off and was delighted to get the congratulatory call several weeks later.

“The simplicity,” said Fair manager Eleanor Neubert at once about why the judges liked Ms. Alley’s work and enthusiastically chose the cow to be this year’s poster star. The design has already appeared on Fair booklets, and this weekend will be seen on t-shirts, posters, aprons, and tote bags all over the Fairgrounds.

Ms. Alley — who ironically is not related to any of the many Vineyard Alleys — will be at the Fair, greeting visitors and signing her poster at the t-shirt booth.

“I’m thrilled to be part of the Fair in a whole different way this year, it’s very exciting,” Ms. Alley said. “It just warms my heart.”