Crack open your wallet for conservation at the M.V. Shellfish Group art show

— Amandine Surier Hall

On Saturday, July 16, and Sunday, July 17, the Tashmoo Spring Building in Vineyard Haven will host the 2016 Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group Benefit Art Show. With 31 local artists showcasing their masterful pieces, this event promises to be an evening to support and appreciate the artistic community of the Island.

The Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group (MVSG) is a nonprofit organization comprised of the shellfish departments of the six Island towns. Since 1976, its main focus has been preserving and expanding the Island’s traditional shellfisheries of hard clams, oysters, and bay scallops through the development and application of aquaculture techniques. They also aim to maintain the good surface water quality crucial to a viable shellfish industry.

In the 1980s, the MVSG implemented their solar-assisted hatchery on the shore of Lagoon Pond in Tisbury. It was the first public solar shellfish hatchery nationwide. All the species produced by the Shellfish Group are spawned and cultured through planktonic larval stages in the solar hatchery. They all go through a very thorough process, and are eventually moved to a field nursery system where they grow in warm surface waters, protected from predators for one whole season before they are bottom-planted on public beds.

The annual art exhibit is now in its third year. Amandine Surier, event organizer and hatchery manager, said that all funds raised through the art show will benefit the group’s mission: “to produce quahog, oyster, and scallop seed for the Island towns to ensure the health and sustainability of their traditional shellfisheries.”

“What I love about the show is how diverse it is,” Ms. Surier said. “We have woodcuts, oils and acrylics, fish prints, handbags, watercolors, fiber art, pottery, jewelry, photography, terracotta sculptures, seaweed art, and slate carvings. We also make a point of having a very wide price range, so that there is really something for everyone.”

The organizers have enjoyed an increase in support and interaction from the Island community. “Since we offer a free raw bar and display the works of some seriously talented artists, it has become very popular among shellfish lovers and art lovers,” Ms. Surier said. She added that the Tisbury Waterworks venue “has so much soul and character, and it overlooks Tashmoo Pond; it’s a really lovely setting.”

Among the returning artists is Adam Smith, a young slate carver who trained under a master carver in Kathmandu, Nepal. His work, inspired by the Island’s wildlife, uses locally sourced slate and salvaged roofing tiles. “Much of what I carve is local wildlife, which takes on a fossil-like quality when carved in stone,” Mr. Smith said. “My intention is to blend this sense of stillness with a sense of wild aliveness and sometimes playfulness in each piece.” Mr. Smith is honored to participate in the show for the third year running. “The ponds here are so vital to what makes this Island special, and it is a joy to be able to contribute to their preservation in this way,” he said.

Woodcut artist Ruth Kirchmeier also attributes her inspiration to the Island’s natural beauty. “I want to have what I create to be as thrilling to me as what I behold,” Ms. Kirchmeier said. “If that turns out to be the case, then I might consider sharing my creation with an audience.” She is excited to show her work at this unique event. “One of the pleasures of showing with the Shellfish Art Show is not just that it serves a worthy cause, but it is held in such an iconic building and in such a beautiful spot,” Ms. Kirchmeier said.

Jeffrey Canha, a fisherman and fifth-generation native of Martha’s Vineyard will display his gyotaku, or Japanese fish printing, work at the show. “My art brings history, nature, conversation, and provokes thoughts,” Mr. Canha said. This year, he will donate 50 percent of sales to the Shellfish Group’s mission and the other 50 percent to the Luke Gurney family fund, in memory of his fellow fisherman and friend who lost his life in a tragic commercial fishing accident in June.

The show’s theme of conservation will continue with young photographer Astrid Tilton, who discovered her passion when she learned how to use the darkroom in eighth grade. Her work relates to environmental and social issues. “Photographs are a powerful way to educate people because you can show what is happening while allowing people to come to their own conclusions,” Ms. Tilton said. “I think it’s important to be reminded of what we are working toward when it comes to environmental issues. Being aware of problems and what we need to change is as important as being aware of how beautiful the world can be.” Ms. Tilton sold work at last year’s show, including a cyanotype of Lucy Vincent Beach purchased for the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital collection.

“I love when young artists who have no idea how talented they are sell a piece or get really great feedback,” Ms. Surier said. “The look on their faces is just priceless.”

2016 Martha’s Vineyard Shellfish Group Benefit Art Show: Tisbury Waterworks building, Vineyard Haven. Opening reception, 4 to 8 pm on Saturday, July 16. Show continues from 10 am to 5 pm on Sunday, July 17. Admission is free and open to the public, and includes wine and oysters. For more information, visit