PIKNIK goes to Beacon Hill for the holidays

PIKNIK owner Michael Hunter with some of the fashions he'll be bringing to his Beacon Hill holiday shop. — Photo by CK Wolfson

For most of the Island’s fine art galleries, the summer season, however rewarding, is short, drawing to a close next weekend. What to do; where to go; how to sustain the momentum and generate recognition for the Island and other exhibiting artists?

Michael Hunter of the eclectic PIKNIK Art & Apparel on Dukes County Avenue in Oak Bluffs, known for creative thinking and for taking artistic risks, has decided to push the boundaries of his gallery’s season, bring a bit of the Vineyard with him, and venture to Boston.

At the suggestion of his friend and gallery helper, Elaine Dalzell, Mr. Hunter is making arrangements for a pop-up PIKNIK Gallery on Charles Street that will be open for two months, from November through the holidays. (Pop-up shops are those that are quickly set up and occupy a retail space for a short temporary period.)

“What I love about a destination spot in the summer, I loath in the winter,” Mr. Hunter says. “You just don’t get any foot-traffic. So it’s tricky. I can’t be in two places at one time, and I’m not going to leave the Vineyard. But this is to just try to be as big as I can for the sake of my artists.”

He explains that he spent two days scouring the city looking for viable venues. “Boston’s not like Detroit,” he says. “There are not a bunch of vacant buildings there; it’s a pretty vital city.”

He found the perfect shop on Charles Street on Beacon Hill in a historic building. (He later discovered its owner is a seasonal Chilmark resident.) It’s a former children’s clothing store with windows facing the street and next to a shop based on Nantucket.

“Charles Street is like a Dickens village, particularly during the holidays,” Mr. Hunter says.

He rattles off the this-and-that of his plans at the same revolutions per minute that a car travels downhill without brakes: He’s doing “e-mail blasts” with support from other Island businesses; the interior will be painted (no children’s store pastels for PIKNIK); Trip Barnes will pack up the vintage clutter that is scattered around his Oak Bluffs gallery – the old rusty tricycle, vintage Coke sign, metal sculptures, and “the kitschy bohemian things of the Vineyard;” and the art and fashions will be moved in.

“Maybe it will be good for the Vineyard,” Mr. Hunter says. “The more this develops the more I feel like an ambassador for the Vineyard. I should take Chamber of Commerce flyers. I’ll take all the Vineyard magazines, State Road chocolate bars, Flat Point Farm’s goat milk soaps.”

He says, “My artists are painting again at a time of year when they would be saying, ‘Oh, how was your season?’ But it’s not over, and that’s the big point of this whole thing. And it’s the same with my apparel. I’m reordering things that I’ve sold out of unexpectedly, and that normally would make me a happy idiot but here winter is coming and I’m reordering. We’re reenergized.”

The Charles Street gallery will display Walter Montstream steel sculptures, Dan VanLandingham’s abstract acrylic landscapes, Nan Bacon’s glass, Alison Shaw’s selected images and autographed books, Traeger diPietro’s series of abstract lobster boats, Max Decker’s impressionistic landscapes, Carrie Mae Smith’s series of grapes on the vine, Tom Stephens’s uber cityscapes, and Anne McGhee’s Fenway series.

His apparel and accessories will include Johnny Farah leather bags, Hache dresses and knitware, Alexander Berardi fashions, Byron Lars’s mixed media jacket, VSP’s fur collars, Tracy Watts Hats, and Stefanie Wolf jewelry.

And after a pause for breath, Mr. Hunter says, “So the worst that can happen is that I’m going to have a really great time throughout the holiday season. The best – I’m going to sell all my paintings, my clothes and all my jewelry. So there’s no way I can lose.”