Cultural Council awards 42 grants

$41,000 goes to the Island’s arts, sciences, and humanities.

Rob Hauck, Martha's Vineyard Cultural Council chairman, delivers opening remarks at the Grant Recipients Reception at the M.V. Film Center. - Sophia McCarron

The Martha’s Vineyard Cultural Council (MVCC) celebrated the arts by holding its annual reception for the 2017 grant recipients at the Film Center on Tuesday, May 2. The MVCC grants help people and organizations who work in the arts, sciences, and humanities bring a richer culture to the Island community. They help people and organizations bring their work to fruition so that it may inspire others to pursue interests in the field. This year, the council awarded 42 grants totaling $41,000 to people and organizations all over the Island.

Rob Hauck, chair of the MVCC, opened the evening with a call for continued support of the arts, especially in view of the threat that they are under in the new political climate: “There’s enormous support for the arts, but when governments want to decide to appear to be economically efficient, the first things that are cut are the arts. Which seems a bit odd, because the total amount of money given in public budgets to the arts is miniscule.”

The Cultural Council is a champion for arts funding, and the night demonstrated how important and widespread its mission is. The projects that the council funds have to give back to the community in some way. “I may do some type of workshop around the process I’m using, be it bookbinding or some other type of workshop,” said Emma Young, who received a grant for her upcoming poetry book, “The Book: From Scratch.”

“Then I would like to hold an event surrounding the release of the book so that community members can come hear the poetry. I’d also like to have other artists, writers, or musicians come to the event so that it’s creating a community around the book. That makes it applicable to what the Cultural Council does, because they really want it to be for the community, not just me making a book by myself.”

Some of the recipients have become fixtures of the Island arts scene. Abby Bender is the founder and director of Built on Stilts — a dance festival that runs for six nights during Fair Week in August — and has been receiving MVCC grants for around a decade. MVCC grants are relatively small, but often they can help cover the gap of operating costs for work like Abby’s.

Rather than giving the majority of the $41,000 allocated for grants to a handful of people or organizations, MVCC spread the money around and funded 42 grants this year. “Over the years I’ve noticed they’re funding more and more people with smaller grants. I think it’s awesome; it really empowers the creative community at large,” Abby said.

Film-Truth Productions was another grant recipient. It is using the grant to fund its upcoming film, “Keepers of the Light: The History of the Gay Head Lighthouse,” which was previewed at the reception. Ken Wentworth of Film-Truth said, “As artists, there aren’t a lot of sources of funding and income, so programs such as the MVCC giving us funds allows us to create projects that we wouldn’t be able to create otherwise.”

The projects funded by the MVCC covered a wide array of topics, ranging from celebrating the Island’s history with sign language to helping support the cranberry harvest.

Fred Hotchkiss received a grant to print flyers about National Fossil Day for every child in the Martha’s Vineyard school system, in order to generate interest in the sciences. “We all do it because we have a mission, something that we want to fulfill,” he said. “I have this nonprofit organization, and the mission is education, research, and public participation — getting young people interested. Earth sciences can be careers; you could become motivated to take courses in geology, meteorology, and that could become a career.”

Today the mission of the Cultural Council is more important than ever; the work it does is vital to our Island community.