From Harlem to Martha’s Vineyard – Renowned show is back

"Jazz Alive" by Leroy Campbell. — Photo courtesy of Hoverfly Media

Many of today’s preeminent artists representing African, African-American, and the Caribbean diaspora are traveling to Martha’s Vineyard next week to participate in a weeklong celebration of the arts.

The second annual Harlem Fine Arts Show features more than 30 visual artists (along with jewelry and other crafts) and a number of authors and musicians, in the seven-day festival that includes music, book signings, talks, panel discussions, and more. The majority of the artists will be on hand. There will also be a benefit breakfast for the local group Young Brothers to Men and a free community barbecue as part of the festivities, which begin on Monday.

The show is an offshoot of the New York Harlem Fine Arts Show (HFAS) which for the last five years has attracted more than 10,000 visitors to its venue — the historic Riverside Church in Manhattan. Last summer, HFAS founder Dion Clarke decided to travel with the show to the Vineyard for the first time.

“The Vineyard is one of the best vacation spots in the country,” said Mr. Clark. “This is an ideal place. A great place for students and families and a hub for the arts. If the First Family can come to the Island and enjoy themselves, that’s good enough for me.”

Although the inaugural festival was plagued by problems owing to restrictions on the planned venue, this year Mr. Clarke, a very friendly, accommodating man with a lot of enthusiasm, has done his due diligence to ensure that the festival will run smoothly and be accessible to as many as possible. With the exception of the breakfast and a golf tournament and banquet, the visual art show, as well as all of the other events, will take place at the centrally located Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) in Oak Bluffs.

“This year we’ve been able to pull the strings together so we can roll out a great show and impact the community in a positive sort of light,” Mr. Clarke said. “Last year was our first try and we promised to come back and do better and make sure we fit in with everybody on the Island. We’re here for everyone. Through our sponsors we have been able to not charge an admission fee.”

Featuring hundreds of works in painting, sculpting, and crafts, the art show will hang from August 5 through August 11. Among the nationally recognized artists in the show are Leroy Campbell; Robert Carter; Puerto Rican born Elizabeth Baez; jeweler Corinthia Peoples; and sculptor and painter George Nock, a former New York Jets running back. Delano Brown, who was recently the subject of a New York Times Style section feature, will paint on premises. Representing the local art world are Jeanne Staples, Betty Eubanks, Suesan Stovall, and the Cousen Rose Gallery. Many other galleries from throughout the country will also participate.

Music will be provided by a jazz quartet fronted by Cliff Lee, brother of musician Bill Lee and uncle of Spike Lee. An author’s pavilion features nationally syndicated advice columnist Harriette Cole; author, journalist, and MSNBC host Touré; and local authors Abigail McGrath, Tom Dresser, SQuire Rushnell; and co-authors Dr. Roni DeLuz and James Hester.

The show kicks off on Monday with the inaugural HFAS/African American Golfer’s Digest Martha’s Vineyard Golf Classic Tournament. The Monday evening tournament awards ceremony and banquet at Hooked in Oak Bluffs will give guests the chance to get a sneak preview of some of the artwork.

On Tuesday, August 6, Young Brothers to Men founder Leo Frame will be honored at the “Start Your Day with Touré” chicken and waffles breakfast (also at Hooked). The three-hour event will feature MSNBC’s “The Cycle” co-host Touré and best-selling author and “Today Show” contributor Harriette Cole, as well as a panel discussion including local artist Harry Seymour. A portion of the proceeds will go to Young Brothers to Men — a group that pairs high schoolers with mentors from the Island and focuses on community service efforts. Mr. Frame recently retired from his job as a business teacher at MVRHS, but he will continue his work with the group.

Wednesday, August 7, is the opening day for the exhibit and sale at MVRHS. The community is invited to enjoy a free barbecue from 12 noon to 3 pm and the author’s pavilion features book signings and conversations with Touré, Harriette Cole, designer and author Sheila Bridges, and others. Thursday features an “Art of the Island” special exhibit with work by local artists. Friday is Youth Empowerment Day with activities for young people. Cliff Lee Plus Three plays jazz all day on Saturday, and the exhibit is open to the public from 10 am to 7 pm, Wednesday through Sunday.

Mr. Clarke is pleased with the reception he has gotten from the Vineyard community so far. “The townspeople have been great to us in helping us put it together this year and overcome the obstacles we had last summer.”

The show is a win-win situation for the artists and the community, Mr. Clarke believes. “We want the artists to be able to sell and exhibit their work to as many people as possible,” he said. And from the public’s standpoint, he added, “We prefer the artists to be there. The whole purpose is to meet and greet and for the consumer to get the perception of what the artist is trying to do. It’s what makes our show unique.”

Harlem Fine Arts Show on Martha’s Vineyard Exhibit and Sale, August 7–11, 10 am to 7 pm, M.V. Regional High School, Oak Bluffs. For more information, visit