Art blooms at Oak Bluffs Library

"Confidence in a Storm" is the title of watercolorist David Grey's portrait at the Oak Bluffs Library. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Oak Bluffs has joined the Island libraries that provide space for local artists to exhibit their work. Currently on display through July 15 is watercolorist David Grey, whose 20 landscapes and abstract works went up at the beginning of June, and the library is actively looking for Island and Island-related artists to apply for use of their exhibition space.

Although Mr. Grey is not the first to exhibit in the library’s Meeting Room –– Michael Wooley showed his marine photographs over the winter, donating 10 percent of his sales to the library –– the library hopes for the first time to have a steady stream of exhibitions.

Opening its doors at a brand-new building on School Street in October 2005, the library consulted former Dragonfly Gallery owner Holly Alaimo on design plans for the Meeting Room to make it amenable for exhibitions. A special art hanging system was installed, but it languished unused, and the Art Committee disbanded.

Arrival of new Acting Director Sondra Murphy, former Children’s Librarian for the library, instilled a new energy in the entire staff. One result was activation of the gallery space.

“David jumped through all the hoops,” says Library Assistant Anna Marie D’Addarie. As a result, the trustees agreed to hold the show without an Art Committee.

At the opening reception held June 2, Mr. Grey sold five of his watercolors. A longtime Vineyard resident, he has been painting since he was a little boy growing up in Philadelphia, later sailing Island waters with his father and settling on the Island as an adult.

The library show is Mr. Grey’s fourth. He has exhibited at Vineyard Haven’s Daybreak Clubhouse, a mental health facility run by Community Services that has a display area. He has also shown in National Alliance for Mental Illness exhibits in Leominster and Seekonk. One of his works received an honorable mention at the 2011 Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair.

The 49-year-old artist credits Island painter John Holladay as instrumental in his success. Mr. Grey has taken numerous classes with Mr. Holladay at Featherstone Center for the Arts, thanks to scholarships provided by Daybreak Clubhouse.

“I love his work,” says Mr. Holladay. “He’s really good with color. I wish everyone had the excitement he gets out of painting.”

Mr. Grey finds a big contrast between watercolor and the Island’s landscape. “You have to know how to mix your pigments,” he says. “Some landscapes are diabolic. Some are frustratingly out of balance.” Mr. Grey spends most of his days in front of his easel.

Although watercolor is his favored medium, he has experimented with crayon, pastels, and tempera, most recently trying gouache. For his watercolors, he has learned to draw in pencil first. Mr. Grey’s favored themes are seascapes and shore scenes, but he has also tried his hand at abstract compositions.

“I draw whatever is going to accentuate the color,” he says. He recently acquired a Blick easel and hopes it will help him finish five or six new paintings by the fall. His goal is to have an exhibit at Featherstone.

Mr. Grey has a large collection of watercolor books, which, he says, have encouraged him to scale down his work. “They say to put in as much details as possible,” he adds.

Art is cropping up in other parts of the library as well as its Meeting Room. Mr. Wooley, an underwater photographer who travels worldwide, has a display case on the library’s second floor filled with objects culled from the sea. Another display case on the second floor contains wood carvings by Oak Bluffs resident Ulysses Lear.

Hours for the Oak Bluffs Library and its Meeting Room exhibit space, at 56 School St., are 10 am to 8 pm, Tuesday and Thursday; 10 am to 5 pm, Wednesday and Friday; 10 am to 4 pm, Saturdays. For information, call 508-693-9433.