Seventy years from boatshop to catboats at Old Sculpin


The Old Sculpin Gallery, situated in a scenic spot directly across from the Chappy Ferry dock, will be celebrating its 70th anniversary this summer. The gallery was originally founded to display the work of the Martha’s Vineyard Arts Association’s (MVAA) member artists — an impressive roster that includes 60-plus artists working in various media, with new Island artists added yearly.

The 2024 season opened May 24, with a currently running All Members Show, featuring the work of more than two dozen current members. All work is new since last year’s gallery closing. The All Members Show will hang through June 14.

Following the All Members Show will be an exhibit featuring the work of the MVAA scholarship students. The scholarships are given each year by MVAA to promising high school artists.

During the last week of June, the gallery will host an exhibit showcasing the MVAA’s newest members. These include painter Erica Brody and photographers Karen Morgenbesser, Edwina Rissland, and Brooke Bartletta, who is also the association’s new director.

The highlight of the season will be the official celebration of the 70th anniversary — the annual Catboat Weekend and a second All Members Show, July 20 to 26. The full title for this summer’s celebration is “From Carpentry to Artistry: Seven Decades of Member Art and the Story of Manuel Swartz Roberts.”

This event-filled, weeklong celebration will include a Parade of Sails — featuring catboats from near and far, a gallery exhibit, and festivities all open to the public — and will honor the MVAA’s history and the benefactor who made an invaluable contribution to the association. Manuel Swartz Roberts was a well-known, colorful local character who operated the building now housing the gallery as a boatbuilding workshop from 1900 to 1954. He specialized in building and repairing catboats.

When Swartz Roberts retired, he sold the building to a number of local artists who organized their efforts to create Martha’s Vineyard Arts Association. At 70 years old, the Old Sculpin, true to its name, is the oldest nonprofit gallery on the Vineyard.

Other shows this summer will include exhibits showcasing the work of various current members, grouped into exhibits featuring three or four individual artists.

According to new director Bartletta, “The mission of the MVAA is to preserve and enhance the cultural life of the Vineyard community by providing quality art education, annual scholarship awards, exhibition opportunities for artists in the historic Old Sculpin Gallery, and curating our permanent collection of Island art.”

The gallery itself is worth a visit. The unique 250-year-old space, with its odd dimensions — its tall height on a spare footprint — was formerly a sail loft, a whale oil factory, an old grain store, and a boatbuilder’s shed. The distinctive building features a shingled tower, wide original floorboards, and hand-hewn beams.

The rustic setting is appropriate for the association’s storied history as home to some of the world’s most widely recognized artists, including Francis Chapin, Vaclav Vytlacil, Julius Delbos, Loïs Mailou Jones, Mary Coles, Ruth Appeldoorn Mead, and William Abbe.

This summer, the MVAA will continue its mission of offering educational and community-minded opportunities, including children’s art classes, adult classes, and studio space for artist members.

The MVAA Scholarship Students’ Show will be on display from June 15 to 22, with an opening on June 16, from 5 to 7 pm. For more information, go to

The Old Sculpin Gallery is located at 58 Dock St., Edgartown, and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm, and Sunday from noon to 7 pm.