Pathways arts initiative livens up Chilmark winter

Spindrift Marionettes presented scenes from a work in progress based on the story "Cupid and Psyche." — Photo by Gwyn McAllister

Up Island in winter has inspired visual artists and provided a serene, nurturing atmosphere for writers, musicians, and other creative types over the years. But the town of Chilmark in the off season has generally not been the scene for community gatherings, entertainment, and meetings-of-the-minds.

However, the latter scenario became a reality two years ago when Chilmark resident and transplanted New Yorker Marianne Goldberg temporarily took over the seasonal Chilmark Tavern and turned it into the Pathways Gathering Space, in residence through April. As of last Friday, Pathways launched the 2013 series of evenings devoted to the arts.

The scheduled evening events will be divided into what Ms. Goldberg refers to as “clusters.” Tuesday evenings are devoted to poetry, Thursdays to digital art, and Fridays feature Blasts of Light musical performances. Some evenings will be open jams, others will spotlight scheduled performers. Weekly Saturday and Sunday events will include a mixed bag of performers and visual artists. There will also be specific events to honor artists and writers, such as the Cleaveland House Poets, immersed in major creative projects.

Last weekend’s opening event drew a good-sized crowd to the tavern. The cozy restaurant was fitted out with an L-shaped viewing area surrounding a large performance space. A number of people also watched the performers from a cluster of tables and from seats at the bar. The evening’s entertainment included music by Melanie Sroka-Chaunce, George Davis, and John O’Gorman; poetry by Barbara Peckham and Ellie Bates; videos by Jeremy Mayhew and Richard Skidmore; and a snippet from a work in progress by the Spindrift Marionettes.

Two of the evening’s performers gave multimedia presentations. Anna Edey introduced audience members to her new book on sustainable living through slides of her illustrations and a reading. Kara Taylor read a few of her poems accompanied by slides of her recent artwork and piano music by David Stanwood.

The performance-filled evenings comprise just one initiative of an organization called Pathways Projects Institutes, which was founded by Ms. Goldberg in 2007.

“Pathways is about enhancing and catalyzing the creative process in the arts,” Ms. Goldberg said, who is an accomplished dancer, choreographer, visual artist, dance critic, and writer with a doctorate in performance studies from NYU.

Other initiatives sponsored by Pathways include the Featherstone Summer Festival of Poetry and the Promising Young Poets, which will host an evening of readings and awards in April. Pathways helps support, among other things, choreography residencies at The Yard and a new kids’ filmmaking program by the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival.

Ms. Goldberg says that Pathways also offers seed honoraria for projects by local artists. “Pathways projects go towards providing ways for people on the Island to create,” she said. She added that she is primarily interested in nurturing the early stages of creative development. “When you want to create something on the Island, then I’m on board.”

The current program will culminate in a month-long Imagine Arts festival in April. Artists are encouraged to use the tavern gatherings as an opportunity to try out work in development and possibly establish collaborations with other artists.

Collaboration is an important part of the Pathways mission. So is providing a space where artists can create in a shared atmosphere with digital and print resources at their disposal. Ms. Goldberg doesn’t believe that art can be created in a vacuum and she hopes to keep the doors to the gathering space open during non-performance times to encourage a community spirit among artists.

“This has been in my mind for 30 years. Providing a place where artists could gather together to collaborate and make new work,” says Ms. Goldberg.

While the performance space takes up the majority of space at the transformed restaurant, the layout also includes areas where artists can create, access resources, and find inspiration, such as the Writing Room and ArTbaR, for reading various publications and digital resources, respectively.

Ms. Goldberg hopes to eventually offer classes and hang art installations at the space. She’d also like to host “a combination of gentle movement, meditation, and journaling that you can use as your own personal warm up or warm down.

“I feel like the winter is a really good time for initiating new work,” she said. “I find it a really creative time.” That would appear to be the case, judging by the number of performers who are involved with the project so far and the variety of media in evidence at last weekend’s gathering.

After the final performance on Friday night, Ms. Goldberg said, “15 years ago I got the idea to have a light on in Chilmark in the winter. They thought I was out of my mind. I’m just so happy. I feel so fulfilled to see all these people in so many different areas of work.”

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