Actress Brooke Adams may be best known for her appearances in a variety of movies (including “Days of Heaven” and “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”), or, to Vineyarders, for starring in some of the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse’s past productions. However, Adams is also a very talented artist. This coming weekend she will be doing her part to help support a very relevant cause, as she and sister Lynne Adams host a sale of Brooke’s artwork to benefit the organization Black Ballot Power.
Speaking of recent activity in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Adams calls it “the most metaphorically beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.” She took part in one of the Take a Knee protests in Chilmark, and, although she has always actively supported civil and human rights initiatives, she became further immersed. “I started educating myself on the prejudice that is so flagrant in this country,” she says.
Around the same time, Adams began painting a series of portraits of people wearing masks. “The first one I did was a self-portrait,” she says. “It was the first time I ever felt comfortable doing a self-portrait.” She then painted a masked portrait of her sister and a few other people. The recent surge in activism inspired Adams to want to do something in support of the BLM movement, so she decided to host a sale of her artwork, with all of the proceeds going to the Black Ballot Power organization.
Black Ballot Power sprang from the Boston-based organization Union of Minority Neighborhoods (UMN), which, according to its website, “organizes and trains people of color and low-income people to end discriminatory policies that limit our access to political, economic and social power.”
UMN deputy director Sue Karant explains the genesis and mission of Black Ballot Power. “The idea was spawned after the 2016 election,” she says. “We were looking at the numbers, and saw that there was a huge drop in black voters. It drove home the importance of civic engagement. We saw how the Electoral College flipped in many states. We saw the need to talk to young black people about history, and explain the importance of voting to all black people.”
Brooke’s sister Lynne Adams became involved in the Black Ballot Power initiative, helping to design the website, among other things. Brooke, husband Tony Shalhoub, and Lynne’s husband George Fifield also became very involved, variously making donations, hosting fundraisers, and lending their names to the cause.
“I can’t overemphasize how much they all have done for the organization,” says Karant. Both she and her husband Horace Small, director of UMN, will be on hand at the art show. They encourage people to learn more about the Black Ballot Power initiative and what they can do to help. The couple will be around all weekend.
Brooke Adams has been focusing seriously on painting for many years now. She has shown her work on-Island at the former Dragonfly Gallery and at the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse art space, as well as at a gallery in Santa Monica, Calif. ”I started painting when my second daughter was 26, just because I had quit acting and needed some sort of artistic outlet,” says Adams. “I took a class in oil painting, and I just haven’t been able to stop. I”m completely obsessed.”
The actress has proven herself a natural talent. Her work is sophisticated in execution, and shows a great deal of creativity. She leans toward figurative work, and tends to focus on less traditional subjects. As well as acting and painting, Adams is also a writer. Her play “Delusion by Proxy” has been produced as a reading both on-Island and in New York.
Adams and Shalhoub spend their summers on the Vineyard. The sale will take place outdoors, in front of Adams’ art studio. For those interested in learning more about Black Ballot Power, the art show will provide the opportunity to meet director Horace Small and talk to him and his wife and fellow organizer Sue Karant. You can also visit the organization’s website to make a donation, or find out more at blackballotpower.com.
Benefit art show of work by Brooke Adams, Thursday, July 16, from 11 am to 5 pm, outdoors at 205 South Road, Chilmark. All proceeds go to Black Ballot Power.