The new Martha’s Vineyard art gallery, opening this weekend is more than just a space to exhibit paintings. The Knowhere Gallery was conceived by co-owners Valerie Francis and Ralph H. Groce III as a space for more than just viewing, also as an arena where guests are educated and ideas are exchanged.
“We want this to be more than just a gallery,” says Francis. “We hope that this platform will provide a place where people are also informed through the visual application. We believe art tells a story. The gallery is here to be informative and provoke thought about what’s happening in the world. We want people to walk away with more than the experience of seeing something pretty, but also being informed. We’re looking to represent artists who convey a story of some kind.”
In accordance with the couple’s vision, the first show will feature the work of members of a Boston-based organization called Artists for Humanity. The nonprofit’s mission, according to their website, is “to bridge economic, racial, and social divisions by providing under-resourced urban youth with the keys to self-sufficiency through paid employment in art and design.”
Francis discovered the work of Artists for Humanity while doing some research online. The gallery co-owners hired them to design their logo, which led to a relationship that will culminate in a group show, opening on Saturday, July 6, as part of the Oak Bluffs Art Stroll. There will be a presentation during the day, and the work by 17 talented high school students will hang in the gallery for two weeks.
The name Knowhere reflects the owners’ mission. Knowledge is an important facet of what the couple hopes to offer visitors. Explains Groce: “We started Knowhere to share our mutual interest in and love of art with others. For us, the journey into the world of art has been a transformational odyssey that has added considerable value to our lives. We want to offer others an opportunity and an avenue to explore the world through art as a means to find themselves and their path.”
Francis and Groce have both enjoyed long careers in the corporate world. They plan to transfer their knowledge and experience to their current pursuit. Groce writes in a mission statement, “It is part of our plan to creatively and effectively leverage technology to ensure that ‘everywhere leads to Knowhere …’”
The couple met on the Vineyard years ago. They had always hoped to establish more of a presence here. “I vividly recall saying to her that the day would come when we would carve out our own special space on the Island,” recalls Groce. “And from the seeds planted by those words, a very special reality is taking form and growing.”
In mid-July, the Knowhere Gallery will host a solo show by Vineyard artist Stephanie Danforth, who donates all of the profits from her work to a school in Kenya. That show will be followed by an exhibit of the work of Chicago-based artist Rhonda Brown, who comes from a family with a storied history of supporting African American artists.
Francis says that she and Groce plan to host talks and other educational programs at some point. The couple stress that they want all people to feel free to visit.
“We want this to be an experience whether people purchase art or not,” says Groce. “We want people to come to the physical site or the website in the hope that we can leverage the art in a way to spark conversation. We live in a world where people are so divided. It’s about bringing people together to have some sort of dialogue, finding some middle ground. We think art presents the opportunity to do that. We envision our space as an opportunity to spark those kinds of interactions.”