Martha’s Vineyard gains “A” new gallery

The new A Gallery, behind the Tisbury Farm Market off State Road in Vineyard Haven. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

“A” marks the spot, and it is also the name for the Vineyard’s newest gallery.

Tanya Augoustinos, who ran e’kaya, the tiny but happening gallery behind the Scottish Bakehouse until 2007, is partnering with architectural designer Maria Westby at the warehouse-sized building called A Gallery. The season opening happens Friday, July 6, from 5 to 8 pm.

“The works are coming in fast and furious,” Ms. Augoustinos says. “We’ve had an amazing response.” Jeremy Wagner and Jennifer Delilah, two New York artists with Massachusetts or Vineyard connections, headline the opening event. A Gallery will also offer a preview of many major, Island-based artists who will exhibit over the summer. They include names familiar to followers of the local art scene: Rez Williams, Doug Kent, Cindy Kane, Dan vanLandingham, and recent wash-ashore Robert J.P. Hauck.

Nevertheless, Ms. Augoustinos emphasizes, “I don’t want this to be a place where only established artists feel comfortable.” Emerging local artists like Holly Sumner, who creates mixed media, photography, oils, and works on paper, will find a place at A Gallery, too. Lily Morris, whose oils on canvas Ms. Augoustinos describes as like personal documents, will display 12 pieces in her first show. Tim Laursen, whose musical robot has been at Boston’s and Maker Faire, will bring his kinetic sculpture.

Plans for the new gallery, located behind the new Tisbury Farm Market on State Road in Vineyard Haven, began only in May. Within three hours of hearing about the State Road building owned by Elio Silva, Ms. Augoustinos and Ms. Westby were standing outside it. The first question on their minds was, “How are we going to fill this space with art in such a short time?”

That did not turn out to be a problem. Rez Williams had told Ms. Augoustinos at e’kaya that she needed to have a warehouse-sized space. Once he peeked through the garage-door style windows, he was ready to exhibit in a space that is one of the largest on the Island and able to accommodate his large fishing boat paintings.

Doug Kent, who has been working on a new series for a year and a half and was ready to take his art off-Island, according to Ms. Augoustinos, made the next commitment. Cindy Kane, who rarely exhibits on the Island despite her national exposure, was thrilled to find a gallery for her entire series of map paintings “on home ground.”

“Two weeks ago we had six artists,” Ms. Westby said last week. “Now we have over 20.”

One reason for the excitement A Gallery is generating has to do with the size and New York-industrial look of the space. Not since the NYE Gallery (later Shephard Fine ArtSpace) or the Carol Craven Gallery – both closed now – has the Island had a gallery of the scale and style to accommodate the magnum-sized contemporary works of some Island artists. But the well-established Island networks and reputations of Ms. Augoustinos and Ms. Westby make up an important part of the mix. They have pulled together this new gallery in such a remarkably short period of time with the kind of help that the Vineyard specializes in.

“We have a lot of friends who have really pulled through,” says Ms. Augoustinos. “We couldn’t have done it anywhere else.” A bouquet of flowers sitting on a desk in the main gallery room came from catering friends who also brought over a spread of food. Little more than a week before the opening, workmen, friends, artists, and passersby attracted by the large “A” on the outside of the barn-red building streamed through the wide-open doors.

Three giant-sized rooms have been converted into two, with a storage area, kitchen, and office in between. The white walls of the biggest room, rustic enough that visitors have asked what color they will be painted, will stay just as they are. The second room invites art and spectators with its muted warm gray, a hue specially mixed by a friend. An outside area was last week in the process of becoming a deck with railing.

Six months ago both Ms. Augoustinos and Ms. Westby were thinking about packing up and leaving the Island. Ms. Augoustinos quit her “motley” (her word) crew of jobs, and Ms. Westby, who operates Crystal Clear, a window-cleaning business, was ready to have a manager oversee the company. They credit “2012: Time for Change,” a documentary film about how to regenerate what has become an unsustainable world, with inspiring their attitude change.

“No guts, no glory,” says Ms. Westby. In the meantime A Gallery has a chock-full schedule; its proprietors are busier than ever and enjoying it.

Artists’ Reception, Friday, July 6, 5 to 8 pm, A Gallery, Rear 412 State Road, Vineyard Haven. Hours: Mon.-Sun., 10:30 am – 7 pm. Contact: 774-327-9422;