Martha’s Vineyard Museum launches Island Faces portrait contest

The Museum's portrait of Captain Thomas Worth (1793-1824) of Edgartown, by an unknown artist. — Photo courtesy of Martha's Vineyard Museum

The Martha’s Vineyard Museum will be hosting Island Faces, an open competition that invites people to submit a portrait of someone from Martha’s Vineyard. The portraits can be a painting, drawing, or photograph, and they will be displayed at the Pease House Board Room Gallery at the museum from June 15 through October 13.

The competition is being run by the museum curator, Bonnie Stacy, and assistant curator, Anna Carringer, who are looking forward to this first-of-its-kind event for the museum.

“We’ve never done a contest before,” explained Ms. Carringer. “A lot of our exhibits are people-driven, and portraits are featured prominently in a lot of our exhibitions, so this is a nice way to flip it around and look at it in a different way.”

“People often think of us as just history,” added Ms. Stacy, “but in fact, we represent Martha’s Vineyard’s culture, and I think that this exhibition will bring this all together. It’s ‘current day;’ it’s people from the Vineyard, and it’s art all combined in one.”

In addition to their portrait, contestants are also required to submit an artist’s statement, that describes why they chose their subject and their subject’s connection to the Island.

“I think that the people who are submitting portraits are going to be submitting portraits of people who are important to them for one reason or another, and they’ll tell us why they’re important to them,” Ms. Stacy said. “We don’t know what they’ll be saying, but it will be nice, because eventually, we will have a gallery full of biographies — the reasons that this person resonated with the artist, whether it’s somebody’s parent or child or someone that they just know. That being said, this is not a writing competition, so obviously if someone says, ‘This is a portrait of my mother, because I love her,’ that’s fine too.”

There will be a panel of judges that is composed of four prominent artists with strong ties to the Island’s art scene. There will also be a People’s Choice category where anyone can click a link on the museum’s website and vote for their favorite portrait.

“With the submission, we need a digital copy for the public to be able to see and vote on for the People’s Choice. The judges themselves are going to be meeting with the artists and get the opportunity to review all of the digital images so that when we get to the final rounds, we are going to ask for the actual submission to be sent in so that they can see it in person,” Ms. Carringer said.

Winners from the People’s Choice category will be displayed at the Featherstone Center for the Arts following the museum’s exhibition in October.

“Featherstone has been really wonderful because they’re going to be offering a series of classes this winter to sort of get people in the spirit of creating something new for the purpose of this contest,” Ms. Carringer said. “We are allowing photography, drawing, and painting to be a part of this, so they’re working on getting a series of classes that will highlight all of those and give people the opportunity to brush up or learn the ropes of being a part of this event and future ones.”

The contest is open to the public, ages 15 and up. Participants must submit a $25 entry fee. A high-resolution jpeg image of the portrait is due by February 29, 2012 for the first round of judging. The portrait must depict an Island resident, either year-round or seasonal. First prize will be awarded $300, second place $200, and third place $100. More information on the contest can be found at

“The name of the contest is Island Faces so there really needs to be a connection to the Vineyard,” Ms. Carringer replied when asked if she had any tips for those who may be interested in doing a portrait. “I would say to look at everybody. Maybe it’s the UPS guy. Maybe there is something about him that you just find really interesting so you want to paint him. It’s really a neat way to look at people around you on the Island, in this community. Perhaps it’s somebody that has a really interesting face, and you’ve always been struck by it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be this strong personal or family connection. It encourages people to really go out there and look at everybody.”

Island Faces Portrait Contest: portraits due by February 29, 2012, portraits displayed from June 15 through October 13 at MV Museum. $25. Ages 15 and up. For more information, visit at