Fall is upon us, and Featherstone Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs is far from slowing down. Open all year, Featherstone provides residents and visitors alike with an abundance of all things arts. There are fabulous gallery shows — always open seven days a week and free to all — a wide range of enticing studio classes, and engaging literary events and workshops. “We have a very robust and busy fall season. As a year-round organization, we just keep on going,” Featherstone executive director Ann Smith says.
In terms of exhibitions, first is “The Fall,” guest-curated by Tanya Augoustinos, former owner of A Gallery. The reception and opening were held last week, and the show features 20-plus Island artists working in a variety of mediums, including a site-specific installation, where artists will interpret the word “fall” in whatever manner they wish. The selection of artwork encompasses the spirit of transformation and observation from our literal to emotional landscapes, a walk in the woods to sober expressions of overcoming adversity, with a few detours into the unknown.
From Nov. 14 through Dec. 18 is this year’s 19th annual “Holiday Gift Show,” which is also always a much-loved fundraiser, where artists and artisans from all over the Island sell their work, and Featherstone gets a commission to raise needed funds. The show is the perfect holiday shopping destination, where you can find something for everyone on your gift list — and walk away with one or two unexpected items for yourself. The affordable handmade creations include paintings, photographs, pottery, crafts, jewelry, knitwear, holiday cards, mobiles, ceramics, glass, clothing, purses, accessories, soaps, dog goods, ornaments, cards, calendars, stocking stuffers, and more.
There is a full complement of art classes for every creative interest with Featherstone’s roster of superb teachers. In addition to its regular wide range of offerings, on Thursdays through Dec. 15, there will be an open knitting studio with assistance and guidance from teacher Helen Hall. She will also be offering a four-week “New to Knitting” class, in which students will learn a new knitting technique each session, along with knitting terms and pattern reading.
Featherstone’s handsome facilities and breathtaking campus actually originated as the Featherstone horse farm, owned by Bill and Mary Stevens. Mary was an artist, and very much wanted to establish an arts center on the Island. When the couple were ready to downsize, they created a charitable remainder trust and, 26 years ago, a nonprofit group founded the arts center. Featherstone purchased six of the 25 acres, and the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank purchased the remaining 19. This means that none of the land around Featherstone can be developed. Smith feels honored, she says: “We hold this sacred ground up on the hill running our arts center.”
Over time, Featherstone turned the old barns into gallery and administrative spaces, and fully equipped art studios for a roster of classes in ceramics, painting, mixed media, photography, drawing, print and jewelry making, as well as digital, fiber arts, and more. There are even separate buildings that serve as art spaces for afterschool and preschool morning classes. New this fall will be the Creative Spark class for grades nine through 12, taught by Coral Shockey and Sabrina Kuchta. That class begins with building in the pottery studio, then moves into the drawing studio for a themed art exploration. As Smith says, “We are alive and well during these fall months.”
Featherstone Center for the Arts is located at 30 Featherstone Lane in Oak Bluffs. See featherstoneart.org for information about programming and exhibits.