Artists celebrate virtual ArtWeek

Creativity is more important than ever as artists carry on tradition during pandemic.


Like many arts initiatives ArtWeek, an annual tradition that began in 2013 in Boston and expanded to a statewide celebration two years ago, has had to quickly reinvent itself this year to accommodate our current stay-at-home situation. However, the organizers reimagined the festival for the virtual world, renaming it Art Week at Home, and a number of Vineyard arts institutions will be participating this year.

Among those involved are the Featherstone Center for the Arts, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center, and Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse. Each will be contributing to the weeklong festival in their own unique way.

Ann Smith, executive director of Featherstone, says, “Nancy Gardella [MV Chamber director] and I had been planning for ArtWeek this past winter. Very quickly, as they saw people going virtual, they invited everybody in. Luckily, people here were still interested in participating in this virtual creative festival. Everyone is posting their events on Instagram and Facebook.”

These events include virtual readings of 5-minute plays from the M.V. Playhouse, film screenings from both the M.V. Film Festival and the M.V. Film Center and art shows and more from Featherstone.

On Friday, May 1, the kickoff day for the statewide festival, the Tisbury Business Association held its First Friday initiative in the digital world. “All the businesses on Main Street all were on a Zoom or Facetime with different events,” says Smith. “They had people singing and other entertainment. Everybody’s trying to socially gather — from a distance.”

ArtWeek, presented by Highland Street Foundation and produced by the Boch Center, is an annual award-winning innovative festival that each year involves hundreds of Massachusetts towns and neighborhoods and includes thousands of events each year. In a press release, Joe Spalding, CEO of the Boch Center, writes, “We were so disappointed to have cancelled ArtWeek due to the pandemic crisis, especially since it had grown over 30 percent from the year before after expanding statewide in 2018, but the response from event hosts and partners inspired us to think outside the box.”

Each day of the festival, which runs until May 10, spotlights a different area of art, including the visual arts, dance, music, lieterature, drama, film and the culinary arts. This year, the organizers are also encouraging people to pursue their own creative ventures with something called ArtWeek Bingo with suggestions such as “Write a haiku, create 3D art from recyclables, sing-a-long karaoke style and visit a virtual museum.”

The Vineyard participants are offering a multitude of ways to join the celebration.

Several Martha’s Vineyard arts organizations will be serving as event partners hosting the following:

Martha’s Vineyard Film Center:
“Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint”

Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse:
Virtual readings of the 5-Minute Play winners

Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival:
SPACESHIP EARTH online starting May 8. It is fresh from its Sundance premiere and is a perfect film for the moment as it documents eight people’s two-year quarantine in a sustainable biosphere.

Featherstone Center for the Arts:
#MVDailyDraw will continue for the month of May,, and #FeatherstoneFlowersForMom, an online celebration of Featherstone’s The Art of Flowers Show traditionally opening on Mother’s Day every year.

Smith notes that the response to their virtual programming has been very enthusiastic so far. “We hosted our Vineyard Colors show completely online. That has been a blockbuster show. We’ve sold dozens of works.” The show, titled “Martha’s Vineyard: The Way We See It,” features work by Vineyard Colors photographers Moira Fitzgerald and Yann Meersseman, along with works of art based on the photos. More than 60 artists participated and the show drew artists and art buyers from places around the globe. “The people who were inspired by the photos were from Russia, Sweden, North Carolina. We’re introducing the Vineyard to people all over the world. This is really expanding everybody’s audience.”

Currently Featherstone is accepting work for its flower-themed show through #FeatherstoneFlowers. The show will be shared virtually on May 10 as part of ArtWeekAtHome. Artists are welcome to post anything with a floral theme — paintings, photographs, sculpture, jewelry, or images of bouquets or homegrown flowers.

Smith notes that the virtual show will not replace Featherstone’s annual Art of Flowers show, a longtime Mother’s Day tradition and one of the most popular events at Featherstone. That exhibit has been postponed until a future date. The current and the previous two Featherstone exhibits will remain online indefinitely.

All ArtWeekAtHome events — including Vineyard hosted ones — can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and can be accessed through the various organizations’ websites.