Featherstone begins expansion process with new pottery studio

Ceramic artist Frank Creney takes to the wheel at Featherstone's new pottery barn. —David Welch

Featherstone Center for the Arts introduced its new pottery studio at a festive ribbon-cutting ceremony last Sunday, June 11. Much more is to come as the art center brings to fruition other parts of its ambitious, three-stage master plan. It has outgrown the facilities on its six-and-a-half-acre campus, which began as a horse farm.

The first of three architect-designed phases, the new pottery studio triples the size of its previous space, and was created with input from students, teachers, and artists. Pottery has found a home in a new, 2,400-square-foot modular building. The pottery studio has come first because pottery and ceramics are the most popular programs at Featherstone. In a recent interview, Featherstone executive director Ann Smith said the new pottery space includes areas for children and adults, an area for glazing, and a fourth space for kilns. Inside there are separate rooms for kilns, wheels, and other pottery-related crafts. Outside is a 1,000-square-foot patio for open-air work, and two raku kilns.

Frank Creney, left, Ceramics Art Teacher and Ann Smith, right, Executive Director hold the ribbon while Building Committee Co-Chairs: Pam Flam and Anne Besse-Shepherd use the big scissors. —David Welch

“There will be a dedicated space for every discipline,” Ms. Smith said. Next up for completion in the second phase is the new art barn building, more than doubled in size from the original facility to 6,200 square feet, and expected to be finished by August 15. It will house a culinary arts kitchen, office, and conference space, currently in the Farm House; two 26- by 26-foot classrooms; and a 1,500-square-foot gallery. The new gallery will have 14-foot walls to accommodate large works and installations. The gallery will be named after Ann’s mother, the late Francine Kelly, who led Featherstone for seven years. While the art barn is primarily constructed modularly, the gallery is stick-built to accommodate its high ceilings and large walls. Replacing dilapidated structures, both the new art barn and pottery studio are built to LEED specifications (resource-efficient).

Featherstone executive director Ann Smith welcomes everyone to the opening of the pottery studio. —David Welch

The former art gallery will be renovated to house the photography studio, with computer space for digital work and a darkroom. Printmaking, including silkscreen and papermaking, also gains its own dedicated space in the studio, which was formerly used for classrooms. According to the center’s staff, these new spaces represent the first of their kind on the Island.

In the third phase of the master plan, the former pottery studio, which was a 730-square-foot horse-birthing barn, will be renovated to create a fiber arts studio for tapestry, weaving, and knitting.

Development of the master plan for the newly formulated Featherstone campus began in 2011, when the center celebrated its 15th anniversary. So far, $4 million of the $6 million goal has been raised through private donations and grants from the Vineyard Golf Club, the Permanent Endowment for Martha’s Vineyard (for the pottery studio), and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, along with funds from individuals and other foundations. A $2.89 million grant from an anonymous donor, with $1.89 million going into Featherstone’s endowment and $1 million going towards building, has enabled Featherstone to construct the new pottery studio and art barn at the same time for a considerable cost savings. The public fundraising piece of the campaign is now underway, and aims to raise $2 million to complete the building project. All total, Featherstone will have an additional 8,600 square feet with two new buildings. The campus will have six buildings devoted to the arts; not to be discounted are Featherstone’s lawns and fields.

“It really is our mission to create and support learning in the arts. There’s something for everyone,” Ms. Smith says. “Featherstone is a good investment. If you donate one dollar, you help ensure that Featherstone will be here another 20 years.”

“Many people are not aware of Featherstone’s broad offerings,” Posie Haeger, director of development, says. The center’s options are not limited to the visual arts. They include music, poetry, a flea market, and dance and opera through collaboration with other organizations. Teaching, as well as events and workspace, is an important component of the Featherstone mission. Founded by four Vineyard artists, Mary Stevens, Virginia Besse, Helen Bowring, and Kappi Getsinger, Featherstone is the Island’s only year-round community arts center.

From left, ceramic artists Jennifer Rapuano, Sabrina Kuchta, and Nancy Blank try out the new space. —David Welch

Summer is the busiest time for Featherstone. The current exhibit in the Virginia Weston Besse Gallery includes works for sale by Island artists for the Art Barn Fundraiser, which will be held on Friday, June 23, and Saturday, June 24. “Drawn: Black and White” follows, opening Sunday, June 26, and continuing through Wednesday, July 12.

Classes include Friday Ceramics for children age 8 to teens; Tom Maley Life Drawing; Encaustics: Painting with Wax; Wet Felting; Mixed Media: Bring Your Own Piece; Chalk Paint 101; Making Sense of Watercolor, and Preparing for Plein Air. For a complete listing of many more summer courses, see featherstoneart.org.