Martha’s Vineyard’s Night Heron Gallery strides into second year

Night Heron photographer L.A. Brown's "Kitthumper Pot" has a lavender background. — Photo by L.A. Brown Photography

Night Heron, the artist’s cooperative gallery in Vineyard Haven, is thriving as it moves into its second year. The gallery has added two artists to the group, photographer L.A. Brown and fiber artist Sylvie Farrington, after one of the original gang of 10 dropped out. Success means new track lighting that gives the gallery space a consistent, professional glow.

Jewelry designer Diana Stewart and Ms. Brown were on deck one day last week to greet customers and field questions. Each member of the group puts in four-hour shifts. That means the public gets to meet and talk with the artists whose work they’re viewing, rather than wait for the more formal occasion of an opening at a traditional gallery. For the artists it means the labor and expenses involved in running a gallery are shared, allowing Night Heron to keep its prices low. For some, it also means they don’t have to travel off Island to sell their art.

“Everything here is made on the Island by Island artists,” Ms. Stewart says. She and Ms. Brown convey an enthusiasm that comes from working with fellow artists selling their own art. “We get excited when we sell someone else’s work. We text each other and say, ‘Hey, you had a good day. Better check your inventory.'”

In most cases, members of the co-op became friends while they were participating in the Vineyard Artisans Festivals, held now at the Grange Hall in West Tisbury on Sundays and, starting July 5, also on Thursdays through the summer. Many of them continue to show there, as well as at Night Heron.

The connections among the artists abound. Ms. Stewart first met Night Heron ceramic artist Washington Ledesma off-Island at a Danforth Museum show in Framingham, when their booths were across from one another and they discovered they both came from Martha’s Vineyard. Two other members played tennis and went out dancing together long before their artistic association. Mr. Ledesma and Beldan K. Radcliffe, who makes tumbled porcelain tiles among other forms of art, joined ceramic artist and printmaker Nicholas Thayer at his etching studio this winter to work together.

The co-op synergy shows up again when Ms. Stewart describes Kathleen Tackabury’s jewelry in a display case next to her own. “She takes a more organic approach,” Ms. Stewart deftly explains, pointing out a piece by Ms. Tackabury called “Shanyrak” that was inspired by the top and center design of a central Asian yurt.

In the case of Mr. Ledesma’s terra cotta healing stones, Ms. Stewart demonstrates how they rattle when shaken. And Lisa Strachan’s stoneware has acquired porcelain elements, in what Ms. Stewart says is an unusual and technically difficult firing process.

L.A. Brown explains one of the unusual photographic processes she uses. Before Polaroid went out of business, she bought up a bunch of the company’s film. She uses it to make one-of-a-kind photographs, which she transfers onto textured watercolor paper. A friend makes old-fashioned wood frames for them.

She does not manipulate her images. “I shoot in the moment,” she says. Eventually she’ll run out of the Polaroid film and will have to stop making these one-of-a-kind transfers. Fortunately, Ms. Brown also shoots conventional film, and she’s not averse to digital cameras, recognizing they are taking over the art of photography.

“I wish I could still be shooting film,” she says. “Now you’re not only the shooter but the processor. I don’t like the way the world has gone with that.” This kind of conversation illustrates the exchanges that are apt to happen at Night Heron.

The sense of camaraderie at the co-op gallery is palpable. If Ingrid Goff-Maidoff were on duty, she might talk about the poems that she turns into cards or books. Ms. Radcliffe, who makes new “Upcycle” sweaters from parts of old ones, as well as tiles and encaustic paintings, might describe the way Ms. Farrington uses vintage fabrics to create her unique bags.

Now that Night Heron is in its second year, the group has grown more comfortable about intermingling each other’s work. The watercolors of Ann Howes hang close by prints and ceramics by Nicholas Thayer and Carolyn Warren’s oil paintings. The gallery’s new track lights help enhance the warm and inviting continuity of a multiplicity of talents who enjoy working together –– not seen since what was probably the Island’s last co-op venture, the Art Workers Guild of the 1970s.

Night Heron Gallery, 58 Main St., Vineyard Haven. Mon.-Sat., 10 am-6 pm; Sun. 12 noon-4 pm. Contact 508-696-9500;