Friends of Family Planning transform the Ag Hall into an art gala

—Marianne Neill

For more than 25 years, the Friends of Family Planning Art Show and opening night Gala has been a sure and welcome sign of spring. Right on schedule, this popular Memorial Day weekend event will kick off with its fun and festive preview party next Thursday, May 26, from 6 to 8 pm.

The sparkling soiree will find the Ag Hall transformed into a fashionable art gallery, the largest on the Island. A favorite among Islanders, the gathering offers an opportunity to catch up with friends and neighbors after the long winter while viewing a breathtaking array of art and handcrafts.

Longtime attendees will be delighted to know the Gala has returned to its original Thursday-evening slot after a brief shift to Saturday in 2015. Locals had long enjoyed the Thursday bash as a welcome workweek respite and a pleasant time-out before the uptempo days of summer.

“We’re excited to move it back to Thursday night, and hopeful we’ll have a great show this year,” Nili Goldstein Morgan, Friends of Family Planning (FoFP) vice president and art show committee member. She said the organization made the change “bowing to the will of popular opinion.”

The annual art weekend is the organization’s primary fundraiser, and board members all pitch in, working tirelessly to make it successful. Ms. Morgan credited art show committee members, especially Regan Goldstein and Catherine Coogan, for their help with organizing. Every board member lends a hand, taking on responsibilities from preparing, planning, and publicity to hanging artwork, serving hors d’oeuvres, and cleaning up afterward.

This year’s goal is to earn approximately $15,000 to reach the $100,000 target of the capital campaign launched in 2013. Raising this amount will allow the organization to pay off the $80,000 mortgage on its clinic headquarters and establish a fund for its ongoing maintenance and upkeep. After many years operating in rented spaces, the clinic purchased, renovated, then moved into the spacious State Road, Vineyard Haven, condominium unit in April 2008.

“The thing that’s special about the location is there’s a sense of ease and comfort that comes over you when you enter,” commented Sarah Monast, in her first year as FoFP board president. “That clinic is so representative of what we love about the Island community. It is supporting, it’s very welcoming, accepting, and warm.”

The art show itself has been nomadic since its launch years ago, taking place in Vineyard Haven shops and at the Vineyard Playhouse before landing at the new Agricultural Hall in the 1990s. It is hard to imagine the show that now fills the vast barn with color, light, and conviviality began at Murdick’s Fudge and Beadniks.

Featuring music, socializing, light fare, and assorted wines, next Thursday’s Gala is expected to draw some 200 patrons.

Pianist John Alaimo, once called “a star among the small but rich galaxy of Island jazz musicians” by writer Perry Garfinkel, will provide musical entertainment.

Bernadette Cormie’s Herring Run Kitchens will serve cocktail snacks, augmented by cheeses donated by Cronig’s Markets. As in past years, Our Market will donate wine, and Chilmark Chocolates will contribute toothsome treats. Ms. Morgan noted that Ms. Cormie is providing catering at a bargain rate, an appreciated contribution.

Something for everyone

“We have such a diversity of media,” said Ms. Morgan about the extensive exhibit.

Along with visual arts from paintings and drawings to collage, photography, and prints, handmade items including fiber arts, jewelry, ceramics, and woodworking will be on display.

The show will feature many artists and artisans who have exhibited here for years, their familiarity an attraction for visitors. Among them are Washington Ledesma, Wendy Weldon, Linda Thompson, Kanta Lipsky, and former board members Harvey Beth and Marston Clough. Other favorites will include vintage bags by Sylvie Farrington, handmade paper items by Sandy Bernat, jewelry by Sarah Brown, and more. Newer contributors include Jeanie Hay Sternbach with crystal healing jewelry, woodworkers Debra and Robert Yapp, and photographers Christopher Wright and Barbara Reynolds.

Ms. Morgan promised there would be work by several first-time contributors this year, and new artists are still welcome.

An especially notable newcomer is Jack Yuen, who twice won the art show’s poster contest while in high school. Now studying at Rhode Island School of Design, Mr. Yuen will display several pieces.

“It’s very exciting to have a past poster-contest winner’s artwork on show,” Ms. Morgan said.

Contributing artists donate 50 percent of sales revenue to the Friends. Some donate a larger percentage, and others, like photographer Bob Avakian, will generously give 100 percent of sales to FoFP.

“We are so grateful that so many artists participate,” Ms. Morgan said. “We certainly appreciate that artists often get asked to donate to nonprofits.”

She noted that many Island charities ask artists to donate their work without receiving any compensation from sales, and said that FoFP is unusual in that artists can receive a substantial portion of proceeds.

Committee member Jhenn Watts, an artist, oversees show logistics, planning the placement of displays and hanging artwork. Artist Marston Clough, although recently stepped down from the board, will contribute his time to assist.

Following a longstanding tradition, this year’s striking show poster is the work of an Island high school student, Bella Chimes. Each year the organization contacts art teachers at both the regional high school and MV Public Charter School, inviting students to submit poster designs. Four top winners are selected, and are invited to attend the Gala. Additional 2016 winners are Erin Hill (runner-up), Curtis Fisher (third prize), and Patrick Best (honorable mention). Winners receive awards of $250, $150, $75, and $50 respectively.

Caring services in community setting

Family Planning of Martha’s Vineyard has been providing affordable and confidential reproductive health and family planning services and crucial health screenings since it was founded in 1978. Patients may be screened for anemia, high blood pressure, and diabetes, and can receive testing for sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV. Gynecological exams and birth control, along with counseling and education, are offered. Screening for HPV and hepatitis C is available. The clinic offers pregnancy counseling that focuses on explaining all the available options a woman may choose. Vasectomies are available; patients are referred to an off-Island facility for the procedure, and reimbursement is offered.

Clinic services are supported primarily by federal and state funds through Health Imperatives, a regional umbrella organization. Funds raised by FoFP cover a number of costs. The clinic serves both men and women, and minors can receive confidential care. Appointments are as long as necessary to make sure a patient’s concerns are addressed. Family Planning offers a generous sliding scale, and free care for anyone who cannot pay; no one is turned away.

Along with this basic care, the clinic has begun providing some valuable specialized services. A significant addition over the past year is the availability of colposcopy, a diagnostic procedure used to detect abnormal cells when women have had abnormal Pap tests. Performed on women at risk for cervical cancer, the potentially life-saving procedure can identify precancerous cells. When indicated, patients are referred elsewhere for in-depth diagnosis or treatment.

Staff nurse-practitioner Marcy Holmes completed intensive training to enable her to perform the procedure using newly purchased equipment. Previously, women were referred off-Island for this service. Ms. Holmes said up to four patients a week receive a colposcopy, and some have been referred for treatment.

“Two of the first three colposcopy procedures I performed helped to identify the need for surgical intervention to prevent cervical cancer — likely life-changing. One of these was likely life-saving,” Ms. Holmes said.

Ms. Holmes also received training in providing insertable, long-acting birth control, including IUDs and Nexplanon, now offered at the facility.

Staff also includes reproductive health counselor Betsy Edge and reproductive health counselor/Portuguese interpreter Marta Carmargo.

Ms. Monast said the clinic is anticipating busy months, as patient visits increase in summer. Seasonal visitors add to demand, and some vacationers schedule appointments here rather than at their winter homes. She said the clinic routinely serves a large year-round population, including women of all ages.

“They want support, and they prefer it over other locations,” she explained.

Friends of Family Planning Art Show and Sale, Ag Hall, West Tisbury. Friday and Saturday, May 27, 28, 10 to 6 pm; Sunday May 29, 10 am to 2 pm. Free. Opening Gala, Thursday, May 26, 6 to 8 pm. Tickets $50 at the door. For info, visit