Arts Martha’s Vineyard provides a progress report

The Oak Bluffs gallery stroll attracted many summer visitors. — File photo by Susan Safford

Arts Martha’s Vineyard, a group formed to support and promote Island art and culture, met last week and presented the results of a report on fostering arts and culture published in January. The message is that culture is an important part of the Island economy.

On February 23, Arts Martha’s Vineyard held a public reception at the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center to present their work to date, introduce the group’s new steering committee, answer questions, and discuss plans for the coming year. Don McKillop, co-owner of the Dragonfly Fine Arts Gallery in Oak Bluffs and a member of the steering committee, provided an overview of the work the group has done so far.

The work includes an inventory of cultural assets that lists galleries, theaters, performance venues, artists, artisans, photographers, film groups, festivals, libraries, writers, publishers, museums, performers, musicians, and institutions dedicated to learning and history.

Mr. McKillop encouraged all artists to check the list, and said that it’s a work in progress. “If you’re not there, please do let us know by email,” he said. “Make sure that your organization and any artists that you know are there.” He said one of the group’s goals is to create a website that will serve as a portal for all the arts and culture events on the Island, to facilitate communication and help increase awareness of what is already here.

Nancy Gardella, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce, spoke about the dollars the arts bring to the Island. “I was delighted to learn what an enormous economic engine the arts are,” she said. “Arts and culture is supporting every other business on Martha’s Vineyard.”

She said visitors who come for an event will stay in hotels and B&Bs, go out to eat, and spend money in local stores, as well as attend the event.

The numbers

Arts Martha’s Vineyard’s mission is to support and promote arts and culture on Martha’s Vineyard. The group formed in October 2010, brought together by the Martha’s Vineyard Donor’s Collaborative to pursue one of the strategies outlined in the Island Plan, a regional planning document the Martha’s Vineyard Commission adopted in December 2009, following a four-year process.

The direct economic impact of arts and culture is estimated to be 4.2 percent of the Vineyard’s overall economy, according to the report.

Christine Flynn, Economic Development Planner at the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, spoke in more detail Thursday about the economic impact of the arts, and the Island Plan, which stressed ways to sustain the tourist economy without sacrificing quality of life. She said that hospitality (restaurants and accommodations), construction, retail, and real estate together make up over half of the Island’s economy, but emerging industries (defined as those which contribute over 2 percent to the economy) diversify the economy. Arts and Culture is one of these emerging industries, and can bolster the Island’s existing vacation-based economy, while promoting greater diversity in the off season.

According to the report, “In 2008, the Vineyard’s overall economy totaled $513,168,575 with 4,440 business establishments (including 3,278 non-employers), and 7,814 employees. The direct economic impacts of Arts and Culture is estimated at $21,640,909 or 4.2 percent of the Vineyard’s overall economy while the Creative Economy made up 10.2 percent ($52,452,719).” The Creative Economy also includes publishing, architecture, engineering, interior design, landscape design, and related industries.

Ms. Flynn said that arts and culture’s 4.2-percent share of the Vineyard’s economy is greater than in other parts of Massachusetts.

The economic impact was measured using data from academic, state, and federal sources that included the Mass. Department of Labor and Workforce Development and U.S. Census Bureau’s non-employer statistics for 2008, Ms. Flynn said.

Help wanted

David Nathans, executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and a member of the steering committee, described the organization’s structure and encouraged those who attended the meeting to become involved. “We need additional help, additional people, and additional ideas. The number of ideas are limited by the number of people,” he said. “We need more people to take an organizational role and a leadership role.”

Patrick Phillips, publisher of Martha’s Vineyard Arts and Ideas, outlined several future events that include a business roundtable on March 21 at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown.

Ann Smith, of Featherstone Center for the Arts, spoke about collaborating with the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, sponsor of “Fall for the Arts,” a festival showcasing local arts and culture in October.

Arts Martha’s Vineyard leaders said they are applying for grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and others to implement some of the plans laid out in the past year. These include developing and maintaining a website, using social media, creating business partnerships, and further development of events and festivals.

For more information, including a copy of the Planning Report go to