Margot Datz mural enlivens Oak Bluffs SSA terminal

— Photo by Ralph Stewart

The scaffolding set up inside the new Steamship Authority (SSA) ticket office in Oak Bluffs is a performance stage for one of the Island’s most prolific muralists, Margot Datz. The lithe Ms. Datz moves deftly on such a platform, a familiar workplace for her. She is putting the finishing touches on the ticket office upper walls and she expects to finish the job in about 10 days, long before the terminal’s season opening in May.

“The terminal was just begging for a mural,” said Ms. Datz, who proposed the project to Steamship Authority Vineyard member Marc Hanover soon after the building was finished. “Mr. Hanover acted as my liaison to the SSA and was wonderfully supportive in getting the project rolling.”

The SSA covered about two-thirds of the cost, and Ms. Datz raised the rest from a variety of private donors, including the Friends of Oak Bluffs. She has successfully raised private funds for several of her other projects, including the new 12-piece installation in the cafe area of the YMCA, which was paid for almost entirely by donations she raised. A Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council materials grant helped cover the supplies costs of her work in Oak Bluffs and for her art at both the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital and YMCA. Her fanciful paintings brighten many Island spaces, including the Vineyard Haven SSA building, the sub-marine themed wall in the new Martha’s Vineyard Hospital community research center, and at the Oak Bluffs Library.

“Some walls and spaces just cry out to me,” she said this week.” I can conceive of how transformational painting would be in certain spaces, how it could affect the entire experience of the space.” She credits her partner, Tom Haines, for his help, as “a terrific artist and the can-do man who sets me up for success, with scaffolding and painting. ”

Her paintings also enhance businesses and private houses. Nectar’s has a wall filled with Thomas Hart Benton-like scenes of Island life and Island characters. She painted these murals for the nightclub and restaurant when it was the Hot Tin Roof.

Then there are murals that have been covered up by decorators after a different look, but who have had the foresight to not destroy her work. She likes to call these the “slumbering ones.”

The Lola’s Restaurant mural of a large group of Islanders hanging out at Lola’s is slumbering, as is a mural at Season’s. The Tisbury Inn’s restaurant walls were covered with her art before the fire that leveled the Inn, leaving just a memory and in a few photographs.

Her work has not been confined to the Island. She has completed projects for hospitals in Arkansas, Illinois, and Louisiana. Her private home murals decorate “hundreds of homes” both here and off Island, according to Ms. Datz, enhancing practically every type of room from bedrooms and living rooms to kitchens, halls, and bathrooms.

Ms. Datz does not confine herself to murals. She has illustrated books and creates paintings, some of which she sells as prints. She is adept at painting in the style called trompe l’oeil, a painting or design intended to create the illusion of a three-dimensional object, a technique she often uses in her work. She is a sculptor too.

In her “personal time,” of which she said she has little, she pursues “personal exploratory painting” and is always trying to discover “new territory.” Most of her work includes at least a touch of this new territory.

“I have been painting murals for over 30 years, and it is extremely gratifying for me to feel like I can leave a legacy of public art to my very beloved community.”

Her landscapes reflect a fertile imagination, a colorful palette, and a skilled hand. It brightens a dull day. She can also raise money, an art in itself of sorts.

Tax deductible donations to the Oak Bluffs project may be made at, entitling the donor to add a name to a plaque that will be on display in the terminal.