West Tisbury: William Blakesly art exhibits

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— Kyra Steck

It’s been a damp week, no real rain, just an overcast wetness like living inside a cloud. It’s still dry as you dig into the ground. The shallow-rooted rhododendrons and young trees look as though they are trying their best to conserve what water is incorporated into their systems. Leaves are drooping, or turning colors and falling off completely. Our magnificent tulip tree is surrounded by a skirt of yellow and browning foliage.

The changing light is noticeable, too, especially under those gray skies. Abby is sleeping later in the morning, jumping on the bed to wake us closer to 7 than to 5 or 6. A 60-plus pound golden retriever still comes as a shock at any time.

I have been surprised to see the low shrubbery surrounding the Mill Pond already a rusty orange. I say surprised, which is perhaps the wrong word. I observe and follow the seasons, and always have. Being a better record keeper, writing the dates when changes occur, would provide a better reference than my memory. Maybe that should be a New Year’s resolution.

It has cooled down some, enough to let us think that fall is near. Another sign is the annual Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, the 77th this year, that began at 12:01 on Sunday morning. It will run through Oct. 15. Then it will be hunting season, and fall holidays, and the new year will be upon us. I shouldn’t rush the seasons, and try hard not to, but everything feels speeded up these days.

Sunday was also the opening day of two art exhibitions of work by the artist William Blakesly. One is at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, and will run through Nov. 4. The other is a retrospective at Featherstone Center For the Arts, curated by the late artist’s daughter, Barbara Blakesley. It will remain on view through Oct. 2.

William Blakesly was introduced to the Vineyard by two Vineyarders, June Taylor and Tom Thatcher, who taught pottery at Ohio State, where Blakesley taught painting. He and his first wife, Virginia, began coming here summers in 1955. They were originally houseparents at the Lillian Manter American Youth Hostel, an Island landmark near West Tisbury Fire Station I on the Edgartown–West Tisbury Road. Eventually they built their house just up the road on Dan’l’s Way, and settled in as year-rounders.

Throughout this time, Blakesley painted watercolors of idyllic summers on boats or on toy-strewn beaches. Families had picnics, caught fish, or just walked together hand in hand. Life was decidedly enjoyable in his world, and so it remains in all the paintings that hang in many people’s homes. They are treasured as a moment in time and place.

The Howes House/Up-Island Council on Aging building committee is looking for volunteers to participate in a focus group that will consider how the building will be used in the future. What will be the space need to fulfill those goals? Meetings are scheduled for the first week in October, the 3rd through the 8th. There will be two times: 10 to 11:30 on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; 5 to 6:30 on Monday and Thursday. If you are interested, please email hhfocusgroup2022@gmail.com.

There will be a memorial gathering for Tony Cordray this Sunday afternoon, Sept. 18, 2 pm, at the Ag Hall. It will be a potluck, so bring something special to share. I just spoke with Deborah Welles, who is helping Kathy Cordray organize the event, She said that anyone is welcome to call and let her know what they are bringing, or to find out if there is something they especially need. Her phone number is 508-687-9746. It sounds as though there will be quite a variety of dishes, as potlucks tend to naturally organize themselves. I jokingly said that I hoped there would be lots of devilled eggs, in honor of Tony’s Flying Skunk Farm, and was told that they were one of Tony’s favorite edibles. Enough said.

The following day, Monday, Sept. 19, we will reconvene at the Ag Hall at 4 pm to celebrate the life of Margaret DeVane Logue. It will be a potluck, too. There will surely be stories to tell, and Kathy asks that we all bring our best ones to share. I always learn something I didn’t know about someone I thought I knew well, and this will likely be no different.

We are lucky to once again be able to gather to honor beloved community members, to comfort one another, to laugh over funny memories, and to grieve together. COVID left many of us on our own these past years. I look forward to raising my glass on Sunday and Monday afternoons to toast two dear, old friends.

If you have any West Tisbury Town Column suggestions, email Hermine Hull, hermine.hull@gmail.com.