Whatever the Outcome #3: A good time for a worthy cause

WTO founder Craig Miner admired the finish product with all of the artists' plates. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

This past Wednesday night, 12 Island artists and one photographer collaborated on a large-scale interactive project that was the highlight of a fundraising dinner at State Road Restaurant in West Tisbury.

The event was called Creative Artists Plates and appropriately, given that the benefactor of the event was Island Grown Initiative (IGI), the artists were recruited to design facsimiles of dinner plates. During the course of the sold out cocktail party and dinner, guests assembled the magnetized plates to complete a huge photo of a table set for six.

The artistic venture was the brainchild of Craig Miner of West Tisbury, who has been hosting similar events on Martha’s Vineyard since last summer. At the beginning of 2013 he founded an initiative called Whatever the Outcome (WTO) and, true to the name, he and his artist friends have been creating art on the spot with the help of event attendees.

The first two WTO projects each involved piecing back together a deconstructed work of art by a local artist. This past Wednesday’s fundraiser was Mr. Miner’s first foray into employing multiple artists to create one image. And it was a collaborative project on many levels: Not only did all of the artists contribute to the finished picture, but each of the 12 was assigned a partner and instructed to work as a team to create their finished plate.

Mr. Miner does not consider himself an artist, although he has created hundreds of colorful decorated magnets to promote WTO. “I’m a conceptual artist,” he said. “I draw these ideas up and find the people. I’m just a lover of art.”

For the previous events – at The Field Gallery, and as part of the Artist Ball at Dreamland last October – Mr. Miner recruited local artists Traeger diPietro and Walker Roman, respectively. For each event one of the artists created a large (approx 4′ by 12′ foot) painting on magnetic material. The works of art were then cut up into multiple pieces and reassembled systematically during the events.

Wanting to do another event as a fundraiser in the off season, Mr. Miner chose to raise money for IGI since he has a number of friends who volunteer for the organization and he believes wholeheartedly in their mission. IGI helps support and promote local agriculture and food production through a number of programs. “I was looking for something to do on Island,” said Mr. Miner. “It was almost a no brainer.”

Mary Kenworth, who owns State Road with her husband Jackson, is an IGI board member, as is Randi Baird, who lent her talents to creating the huge magnetic photo on which the artist-created dinner plates were displayed.

The $100 a person event began with a cocktail reception. Guests nibbled on delicacies such as pate, olive tapenade, and shrimp dumplings while mingling with the artists. The photo, hanging prominently in the main dining room in front of the stone fireplace, was covered in Mr. Miner’s art magnets. At 7:30 pm, diners were instructed to look inside of their gift bags to see if they had a piece of the “puzzle.” Each of the plate paintings had previously been divided into four pieces and half of the 60 guests had received magnet pieces.

After the magnets were removed to reveal the photo, guests took turns placing the magnetized pieces. When all was said and done, one piece was missing. It was later discovered during the dinner portion of the evening and a loud cheer went up from the crowd at the announcement.

All of the works depicted food in one way or another, except for a graphic work made up of random letters by Libby Ellis and Justen Ahren. “We were thinking outside the plate,” she quipped.

Other participating artists included Nathan Shepard and Dick Iacovello – a photography/painting combination; Josiah Silvia and David Tierney – colored pencil with a mirror image in pen and ink; Danielle Mulcahy and Walker T. Roman – a yin and yang fish and fowl painting; Melissa Patterson and Cecily Stibetz – a bright sculptural piece depicting a plate of colorful vegetables constructed from paper; and Angela Park Sayles and David Miller – a surreal 3D found object piece that included shells, seaweed, and other plant life, coffee grounds, egg shells, copper shavings, and a realistic looking chicken foot made from wire and paper.

Mr. Miner intentionally selected artists whose work he feels is underrepresented on the Island. “Some of these artists haven’t shown on Island. It’s kind of nice to bring them out,” he said. “Some folks are just people who do it for the love of it. Justen Ahren is a poet. I wanted to see if he could add a poetic element.”

Although most of the artists were paired randomly, Mr. Miner says that each team has formed a lasting bond. “The pairs all became friends,” he said. “Down to the last.”

The sit-down dinner was served family style to groups seated at long tables. The bounty of dishes included fried chicken with gravy, a pasta dish, mashed potatoes, salad, and loads of fresh sautéed veggies. Everything was fresh and masterfully prepared, and many of the items came from local farms.

The final outcome of WTO 3 was a happy crowd of diners, a group of artists grateful for the opportunity to stretch their creative muscles and show their work, and a nice chunk of change for IGI.

For more information about WTO, search Whatever the Outcome on Facebook.com.