There are two things that Alexander Campbell is passionate about. One is keeping the Island streets, beaches, and wooded areas as trash-free as possible. The other is creating art. Results of the latter — a series of whimsical drawings — are currently on display at Mocha Mott’s in Vineyard Haven, with a percentage of the proceeds from sales going to MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving).
That organization is one that is close to Campbell’s heart. In 1989, the car he was riding in with his family while on a trip to Mexico was struck by a drunk driver. Two family members died, and Alexander, who was only 3 years old at the time, suffered a traumatic brain injury. Alexander’s mother Kathy, who was critically injured herself, spent as much time as possible by her young son’s hospital bed watching over him while he was in an induced coma. Once Alexander was back home, his mother asked if he could tell, while in a coma, if she was there by his side. He responded that he could, and that during her absences he was comforted by his guardian angels.
“I’ve had many guardian angels in my life,” says Alexander, who is now enjoying an active adult life. At some point he began drawing angels, often while sitting outside the Vineyard Haven home that he shares with his mother. When people stopped by and showed interest in his drawings, he decided to print them on cards, which he then sold as a way to help support MADD.
Eventually Alexander expanded into other subjects, creating colorful drawings of animals, landscapes, seascapes, marine life, barns, houses, and whatever else his imagination prompts. “I just start drawing and whatever comes out comes out,” says the prolific young artist.
“I just felt like drawing one day, and my mind took over once the pen hit the paper,” he says of his beginnings as an artist. “Drawing for me is kind of like driving a car. I’m visually impaired, so I can’t drive, but with my drawing it’s kind of like having my hand on the steering wheel with no stoplights.”
Alexander’s drawings incorporate a variety of media, including Sharpies, colored pens, and pencils, gel pens and more. He favors color — lots of it. The images at Mocha Mott’s are all framed and ready to hang. They’re priced at a modest $40, and so far, most have sold. This is the third time that Alexander has enjoyed a solo show at the popular Main Street coffee shop.
Along with his artwork, Alexander is devoted to pursuing a one-man cleanup project. He enjoys walking, running, and hiking, and he always makes an effort to pick up trash wherever his journeys take him. “I’m helping Mother Earth,” he says, adding that his particular pet peeve is people dropping cigarette butts on the ground.
Cans and plastic bottles that Alexander collects go to one of the recycling machines around the Island. People often drop off bags of cans in his yard for recycling. “I tell people who drop off cans for me that I’m going to play the nickel slots,” he says, with characteristic wit.
Alexander spent 13 years working at Chilmark Chocolates, right up until they closed in 2019. He has also been involved with the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse’s VIP (Vineyard Independence Project) program for many years, serving as an usher, and appearing onstage as the Old Crow in “The Snow Queen,” among other roles.
Alexander can be found most days at Mocha Mott’s enjoying either a hot chocolate or an Irish breakfast tea (with two teabags, a recipe that he refers to as “no gravity tea” because, as he explains humorously, “It makes you float above the ground.”) He is one of the more popular customers, having forged a friendship with many of the employees.
“Alexander is such a great guy,” says Meredith Aldrich, owner of Mocha Mott’s. “He’s very popular. Everyone loves him. Part of what makes this job so fun is that you get to know the locals, and Alexander is such a big part of our community.”
An exhibit of Alexander Campbell’s drawings will hang at Mocha Mott’s through the end of the month.