More than meets the eye at Knowhere Art and Cousen Rose Galleries

Valerie Francis and Zita Cousens serve up creative offerings throughout the summer.


There are art openings galore during the summer on the Vineyard. But Valerie Francis of the Knowhere Art Gallery and Center of Knowhere and Zita Cousens of Cousen Rose Gallery have planned a robust summer of events in addition to delightful gatherings for wine and cheese.

“Mixing things up has been a part of our scope from day one, whether it be the type of artists we expose to the community or the projects we do within the community. It’s always been the norm,” Francis says.

Francis’ season opens with “Sea Change” at the Center Knowhere on 73 Circuit Ave. in Oak Bluffs, from June 15 through August 6. The group show reflects the profound transformations experienced by people of the African diaspora in their relationship with water, a journey marked by resilience, adaptation, and renewal. Before the era of colonialism and the transatlantic slave trade, water held multifaceted significance within African cultures. It served as a sustenance source, a trade and transportation conduit, and a realm of spiritual communion. Through art and expression, “Sea Change” bears witness to the evolving narratives of identity, belonging, and empowerment that unfold at the water’s edge.

Salons will be held over the July 4 weekend with the artists, and separately with a group of remarkable scuba divers from Diving with a Purpose, whose particular focus is the protection, documentation, and interpretation of African slave trade shipwrecks and African Americans’ maritime history and culture.

From July 4 through August 11, “Legacy of a Dream Walker: Bryan Collier’s Visual Storytelling” will be at the Knowhere Art Gallery at 91 Dukes County Ave. The exhibition will celebrate this beloved illustrator, known for his unique style, combining watercolor and detailed collage to convey pivotal historical moments and the rich tapestry of African American heritage and culture. Collier’s illustrations are powerful narratives that bring to life the stories of resilience, triumph, and the enduring spirit of the African American community.

Collier will speak on Wednesday, August 7, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, and conduct a children’s workshop from 11 am to 1 pm on Thursday, August 8, along with an evening “sip and collage” event for adults (the time is to be determined).

“Children of the Sun” opens August 18, and runs through Sept. 15 at the Center of Knowhere. The group show celebrates the radiant essence of childhood and the enduring legacy of joy it leaves in its wake. It will be a testament to resilience, creativity, and the profound emotional connection shared by generations of Black Americans who have found solace and inspiration on the shores of Martha’s Vineyard.

There will be a plethora of related events with illustrator Charly Palmer, beginning with a talk on Friday, July 26, 11 am to 1 pm, at the Oak Bluffs library. Palmer will conduct a workshop for children and teens at the gallery on Tuesday, August 13, from 11 am to 1 pm. On Thursday, August 15, from 6:30 to 9:30 pm, Palmer and collaborator and partner Dr. Karida Brown will be speaking about “The New Brownies Book,” which reimagines the publication initiated by W.E.B. Du Bois and the founders of the NAACP for African American children in 1920. Palmer will also speak about what he has been exploring lately, on August 17, from 6:30 to 8 pm.

Back at the Knowhere Art Gallery, from August 12 through Sept. 8, will be “Venice on the Vineyard,” featuring artists from the European Cultural Center exhibiting at the Venice 60th Biennale. There will be an artist panel during the run, with the time to be announced.

Cousen Rose Gallery at 71 Upper Circuit Ave. is one of the longest-running galleries in Oak Bluffs. “I have worked extremely hard to make it a place for anyone and everyone of any age. When somebody walks in the door, everyone needs to feel comfortable,” Cousens says. “It could be a 2-year-old, a 10-year-old, or a 100-year-old. Whether it’s age or ethnicity, no matter who you are, no matter where you come from in the world … That’s how I was brought up. I hope the artwork that’s on exhibit reflects that.”

Since 1990, she has held author events in addition to art openings. “I think writing is an art. The impetus of including them was to expand the definition of art,” Cousens says.

Dorothy West was her inaugural author event: “The first one we did was ‘The Living Was Easy.’ She sat in the courtyard and held court. People were able to come and meet this fantastic person.”

This summer, Charlayne Hunter-Gault will facilitate a conversation with Carmine Fields on Saturday, June 29, from 4 to 6 pm about “Going Back to T-Town: The Ernie Fields Territory Big Band.” The book relates the story of Field’s (1904–97) perseverance during the early jazz era to the 1960s as he navigated the hurdles of racial segregation in the Jim Crow era, performing jazz and swing for young people flocking to dance and see stage shows by territory bands in the Midwest, South, and Southwest.

On August 20, from 6 to 7 pm, seasonal residents Barbara Edelin and Natalie Johnson, along with Jeh Johnson, will be reading from “Black Love Letters,” an inspiring collection of letters and original illustrations that powerfully celebrates Blackness in all its forms, edited by Cole Brown and Natalie Johnson.

Cousens enjoys having artist conversations as well: “They are meant to be dynamic. The conversations are casual and informative, but not a lecture. You’re involved with the artist.”

Collagist Bricque Garber will speak about her work and inspiration on July 18 during a reception from 6 to 8 pm.

On July 25, also from 6 to 8 pm, drone photographer Robin Gottesman will talk about her art of the Vineyard. 

Meg Black will speak about her abaca and epoxy designs on August 1 at a 6 pm reception. Black says about abaca, a fiber from the inner bark of the banana tree, “Using abaca creates the textural surface in my work which mimics the feel and wonder of the natural world. As an artist, I attempt to depict the emotional pull nature has on us by carefully observing the light, textures, and colors of the natural world.”

Having music is paramount for Cousens at her receptions. “The first musician I invited to play many years ago was Jeremy Berlin on the keyboard, with his brother on the bass,” she says. “Fast-forward to four years ago, Silas Berlin played the keyboard at the gallery; he is Jeremy’s son.” 

This summer, Cousens will again have Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School graduating senior saxophonist Eli Friedman and his young combo playing at openings, alternating with pianist Adele Dryer.

Given this abundant lineup, the summer will be a wash of creativity in all forms, from a rich array of visual arts to artmaking, music, and author talks.

For information about Knowhere Art Gallery and Center of Knowhere, visit Information about Cousen Rose Gallery is at