In current times, with digital access to almost anything you can think of available, brick-and-mortar art galleries are suffering the same fate as bookstores, slowly but surely disappearing from the landscape. The loss of these spaces where people can view art in an up-close-and-personal manner makes it quite remarkable that the Louisa Gould Gallery on Main Street, Vineyard Haven, has not only survived for two decades, but continues to thrive today.
The secret to the gallery’s success, according to Gould, can be encapsulated in one word: “When he left the Island in 2013, [popular landscape artist] Bill McLane said to me that it’s all about perseverance.”
Of course, although the ability to persevere against all odds is important in any business setting, there are many more factors contributing to Gould’s longevity. For one, she loves what she does, and devotes herself to both her clients and her artists. “It’s more than just a business for me,” she says. “It always has been.”
Elaborating on that theme, Gould says, “It’s really a very personal thing for me. I work with the artists as people. I’m here almost every day. I’m very fortunate in that I have a chance to meet new people from literally all over the world. People come back. They become friends. I’ve gotten to know their kids and their kid’s kids. It’s joyful to become a part of people’s lives.”
A longtime professional sailor and awardwinning photographer, Gould originally opened the doors to her eponymous gallery in 2003 in a space by the Vineyard Haven harborfront. Originally she showed only her own work. Shortly after moving to her current space on Main Street, the gallerist started representing other artists. Among the first to join her was painter Kate Huntington.
An established portrait painter at the time, Huntington has since made her name on the Vineyard for her Island landscapes and seascapes, many of which include figures. “She puts people in the environment really, really well,” says Gould. “She works from live models, and it almost feels like they’re people you know. There’s something universal about her subjects.”
Huntington is joined by five other women artists for a show titled “Summertide” that marks the 20th anniversary opening date. Among these is Gwen Marcus, one of the newest to join the gallery’s fold. Marcus is a much-celebrated sculptor whose work can be found in a number of public spaces and important collections worldwide. Examples of her bronze work, which perfectly captures people in motion or in quiet moments of joy, can now be found on display at the gallery.
Gould’s abiding love for the ocean and boats is on display at the gallery in the form of loads of seascapes, portrayals of aquatic life, and maritime images (including the work of Paul Beebe, one of the foremost maritime artists working today). However, Gould hardly limits herself in scope of subject or style. She was one of the first on the Island to show abstract work, and is known for constantly expanding upon her collection to include new and interesting styles and media.
“The work ranges from fine art to contemporary art,” says Gould. “I have a wide range of interests, and I take note of what people are drawn to at any given time. Post-pandemic, people want happier, more joyful work to hang on their walls.”
Joyful is an apt word to describe the work of David Witbeck, who is one of the artists included in the show “Set Sail for Summer,” running concurrently with the “Summertide” show. Witbeck’s whimsical depictions of fishermen proudly displaying their daily catch feature an unusual ground-level perspective that makes his figures appear disproportionally oversize from the neck down. There’s a very fun quality to Witbeck’s images that has a special appeal.
Along with the wide range of styles to be found at the Louisa Gould Gallery, many media are also represented, including ceramics and jewelry. Glass artist Jeffrey P’an was one of the first artists to come on board at the gallery, and his spectacular, multicolored glass chandelier remains one of the focal points of the space. Gould always has a selection of P’an’s colorful vases and bowls on offer, as well as some smaller, more affordable pieces.
The gallery features a range of price points that includes many options for under $200. There is a selection of small, square oil paintings by local artist John Holladay that sell for $75, and prints by other artists that are attractively priced.
Gould enthusiastically welcomes shoppers and browsers alike. “We have an open door policy,” she says. “I love having kids coming in with their parents and discussing art. We don’t have an art gallery per se on-Island, so I want to provide a place for people to feel free to come in and explore art.”
It’s her love of art — and meeting people — that inspired Gould in the first place. “I have the ideal job,” she says. “I get to meet new people and look at beautiful art all day.”
The Louisa Gould Gallery 20th anniversary celebration includes two shows of new work hanging simultaneously: “Set Sail for Summer” and “Summertide,” which will hang through Labor Day. A celebratory champagne reception with refreshments and a number of artists on hand will take place on Wednesday, August 9, from 5 to 7 pm.