Getting to the art of the Island’s future

Pathways Arts and Vineyard FutureWorks discuss the role of Island arts in sustainability.

The Island Innovation Vineyard Ambassadors team is a group of seven participants initially brought together by Bob Johnston, the president and co-founder of Vineyard Futureworks.

On Thursday, Jan. 21, Pathways Arts hosted a Zoom webinar with three representatives from an organization called Vineyard FutureWorks. Bob Johnston, Dan Seidman, and Phil Wallis each gave a brief outline of what the grassroots organization hopes to accomplish, along with the help of the community. The meeting, moderated by Keren Tonnesen of Pathways and attended by about 40 people,  concluded with a question and answer session. 

Tanya Augostinos, Pathways employee and owner of A Gallery, weighed in on what she saw as the arts community’s potential contribution toward efforts to improve conditions on the Island. “We’d like to be a bridge between the artists and FutureWorks initiatives,” said Augostinos in a phone conversation prior to the Zoom meeting. 

According to its website,, “Vineyard FutureWorks began as a series of grassroots meetings of diverse Island leaders across the six towns, concerned that important Island issues were not being addressed urgently enough. These meetings began in October 2018, and were initiated and led by Dennis daRosa and Bob Johnston.”

During Thursday’s meeting, Johnston referenced a report that was compiled by the M.V. Commission in 2005, titled  “Paradise Lost? Are We Loving the Vineyard to Death?” “We’re not doing very well here,” said Johnston, commenting on how far the Vineyard still has to go to address the issues laid out in the report. One of the problems that Seidman and other FutureWorks members see is a lack of coordination among the various town governments. 

“Six towns share one Island,” said Johnston. “Only by working together can we effectively deal with our shared resources and concerns. We need to forge a stronger alliance among six Island towns.”

Johnston listed the five strategic areas FutureWorks plans to work in — economic sustainability, environmental stewardship, engaging community, cultural vibrancy, and COVID and post-COVID concerns. 

Seidman pointed out that the Island is in a position to set an example for the world around issues of sustainability. “We’re a microcosm,” he said. “We can show the world what we’ve learned as a tourism economy, but we have to figure out how to have a sustainable economy.”

FutureWorks has already had the opportunity to make an impact on other communities. As Seidman explained during the webinar, last summer the group was invited to attend a global event called the Virtual Island Innovation Summit. The eight-day summit included representatives from about 30 different Island communities worldwide.  Seidmen organized an insight session that met ahead of the summit to discuss strategy. “We were the first and only group to actually organize ourselves to optimize our learning,” he said. FutureWorks has now been invited to present this “discovery process” to 330 global ambassadors at the next meeting, at the end of January. “The Vineyard Discovery Team will be a model for these hundreds of islands,” said Seidman. 

This example of collaboration and connectivity represents the mission of FutureWorks, which is why they are making an effort to involve as many community members as possible in implementing their proposed initiatives and in formulating new, creative ways to solve many of the issues faced by the Island. 

Augostinos hopes that Pathways can play a part by organizing local artists in all disciplines to think of ways to further the sustainability conversation. “I think artists are uniquely situated to deal with these areas,” she said. “We want to extend an invitation to all of you out there to help us make a difference.”


Pathways has two more virtual events scheduled. An open Pathways/Vineyard FutureWorks Collaborative Artist Discussion will take place on Feb. 18. The next Pathways/Vineyard FutureWorks webinar with the panelists is scheduled for  March 4. All are invited to attend. RSVP at


  1. This was such a pleasure to read. I am also a member of Island Innovation Summit and GLISPA, Global Island Sustainable Partnership.
    I live in Oak Bluffs but am often off-island working on island issues.
    Martha Shaw

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