Art, music, and flowers at Gallery in the Garden

Enos Ray's jazz paintings greeted you at the Herbs house this past Friday. — Photo by Valerie Sonnenthal

Two years ago, driving by the Vineyard Gardens sign “Gallery in the Garden tonight,” I put on my blinker and turned in to their parking lot. Getting out of the car I could hear music and see a world I wanted to visit.

Last summer I stopped for their Friday evening stroll, delighted to not just get a closer look at artwork by local artists whose work I have admired at the Family Planning Art Show and Featherstone, but now I could meet them, sit and chat, and look at everything. Returning to the gallery’s first Friday stroll in August, I was welcomed by the aroma of free fresh hot popcorn. I grabbed a bag and began my outdoor evening of discovery.

Each week (except during the Ag Fair, August 22) between 8 and 14 artists will present their own work in a variety of mediums. Laura Stone, manager of Vineyard Gardens, told me she cannot say exactly which artists will be at each evening stroll.

First I met Kathleen Young who repurposes old sails into unique assorted bags and pillows. She has been lucky, she said. “The Douglas family has been incredibly generous, so I’ve cleaned them out at Five Corners, that marvelous old building [in Vineyard Haven].” Kathleen moved to the Island in 1973 and raised her kids here. She sells her work at Rainy Day in Vineyard Haven, Slip 77 in Oak Bluffs, Alley’s General Store in West Tisbury, and at The Cliffs in Aquinnah.

The next artisan was Vineyard Gardens’ lead foreman and landscape designer Jeremiah Brown, who started making bowls 10 years ago when his wife bought him a lathe for Christmas. After he practiced a while and taught himself how to make bowls, he sprung for a professional lathe and has been hand-crafting bowls ever since. He does not do any of the Artisans Fairs, but he tells me, “I do the Family Planning Show for sure, ‘cause I like donating to that and actually I was really successful there. I brought 15 pieces and I sold 13 of them.”  He also has a few pieces at Made MV, a new Island Artisan Cooperative in Oak Bluffs.

Across the gravel path is Scott Campbell of Vineyard Pottery. Scott built the outdoor kiln at Featherstone Center for the Arts and oversaw annual firings for many years, and has a long history of teaching pottery and ceramics at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and Featherstone. He creates both functional and sculptural pottery in stoneware and porcelain, ranging from whimsical garden sculpture to elegant and practical crocks, platters, lamps, and dinnerware. It is difficult not to find something of use among Scott’s offerings.

In the middle of the gardens were musicians Bob Hammond on fiddle and Tom Hodgson playing guitar. Each week core group members of The Flying Elbows, to which Bob and Tom both belong, will play music and have CDs available for purchase. Guest musician Brian Weiland, whose “Misfits of Avalon” album just came out in June, will be a surprise visitor. On the last Friday, over the Labor Day weekend, the Bella Mira band will play English country music from the 17th and 18th centuries.

A little further into the gardens were refreshments, but on the other side of the hoop house was Deborah Hale, a 35-year Island resident, and her elegant pottery. She returns for her second summer in the garden and offers unique pieces made using alternative firing techniques that she has focused on during the past year including raku, saggar, barrel firing, and horsehair.

The only painter in attendance was Enos Ray, dressed in a bright blue print shirt, a self-taught artist who has lived on the Vineyard since 1979 with a lot of road trips in between. Looking at his work makes me hear jazz and the blues, not just because his palette includes blue in all the work he was showing. Seeing the southern musicians and singers in his paintings makes you feel the music.

Whether you go to Vineyard Gardens before or after dinner, you’ll find an oasis of creative energy, an ideal way to begin your weekend, away from the madding crowds on Main Streets.

Gallery in the Garden, 5–8 pm, Fridays, August 8, 15, 29, Vineyard Gardens, West Tisbury. Art, flowers, hors d’oeuvres, and music. For more information, call 508-693-8511.