The Martha’s Vineyard Museum is responding to visitors craving more — more art and more programming. In addition to the engaging permanent exhibitions and interactive children’s space, the museum this summer is blooming with something for all interests and ages.
The exhibition line up is a feast for the eyes. Currently on view through July 25 is the fantasy-rich exhibition “Life in Reverse: The Remarkable World of Richard Lee.” Lee (1933-2012) created an engaging and uniquely irreverent universe filled with anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figures, cherubs and rose-headed babies, magicians and mystics, and androgynous teacups all reverse-painted onto glass panes in antique frames. For the artistically curious, there is a related workshop in reverse-glass painting for adults, replete with a glass of wine, on July 16. Heather Seger, executive director of the museum, says, “We haven’t done anything like that since we opened. We’re always looking for ways to bring the exhibits to life.”
Among the shows rolling out is “Eight Sides & Many Faces: 150 Years of Union Chapel” on view from through Sept. 2. Oak Bluffs’ iconic octagonal chapel was built a century and a half ago and designed by Island resident Samuel Freeman Pratt (1824-1920). While conceived of as a place where all forms of theology could be practiced, it continues to draw crowds for services today.
Associated with an exhibit celebrating the Vineyard Gazette’s anniversary is an array of public talks called “History Unfolded.” Museum research librarian Bow Van Riper will go behind-the-scenes in the making of the movie in “Jaws and the Summer of 1974” on July 27. Chief curator Bonnie Stacy’s talk, “Obscure and Outrageous: Vineyard History You May Not Know — But Should” takes place on August 3. Maritime historian Matthew Stackpole heads up “At Sea: Stories from the Vineyard’s Whaling Past” on August 10. And Vineyard Gazette archivist and librarian Hilary Wallcox will delve into “Welcome Mr. President! A History of First Families on Martha’s Vineyard” on August 17.
The last of the talks, “A Living Landmark: The Story of Shearer Cottage,” on August 31 will be by Lee Jackson Van Allen, a member of the family that still owns and operates Shearer Cottage, which opened in 1912 as one of the first on the Island to welcome African American guests. It became a favorite retreat of celebrities and an anchor for the town’s growing Black summer community.
August 3 through October 11, “Work of the Soul: Meta Warrick Fuller, Lois Mailou Jones, Delilah Pierce, and Olive (Cutie) Bowles” will be on view. This exhibition explores the work and interconnected lives of four extraordinary Black women artists who lived, vacationed, and worked on the Vineyard during the early-mid 20th century. It will look at how the Island influenced each woman — pioneering sculptor Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller, world-renowned painter Lois Mailou Jones, artist and educator Delilah Pierce, and seamstress-turned-artist Olive (Cutie) Bowles.
If you want a kinetic experience and chance to be with others, there is the weekly outdoor yoga class with YogiJay (Jason Mazar-Kelly) every Saturday morning that is accessible to all levels.
There is something for your ears too with the music series. Seger shares, “The music was so popular last summer that it felt like a natural to do it again. We want to continue to support Island musicians who really struggled in the last year with no venues to play in.” The Dock Dance Band performs on July 29 and Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish on August 26.
Seger says, “One of the things we’re really excited about is starting our kids programming here on our campus. They are free with admission.” Children’s hands-on programs cover a range of fascinating topics including quill and ink, marbleized journals, Japanese lanterns, as well as scrimshaw carving in soap.
“And for the first time in several years, we will also have kids programming over at the Cooke House, which was built around 1760 in Edgartown,” Seger continues. “The whole Cooke House campus is designed to be like a history lesson.” The campus starts with a garden representing the Island when the glaciers receded tens of thousands of years ago and the plants and erratic stones that would have been found in the outwash plains as a result. Then it moves through to the height and eventually to the end of the whaling era. Weekly programs include family activities in the Colonial Life in the Kitchen Garden series. And there are colonial toys and amusements at any time in the garden as well.
“We want people to feel surprised, challenged, and moved by something so that they tell the next five people they see that they have got to go over and experience the museum themselves,” Seger says. “That’s the lens through which we’re evaluating everything we’re doing this summer.”
In a summer where we are looking for comfortable ways to gather again, the museum offers the perfect opportunity to interact with others as well as experience something new for yourself.
“It’s about providing a safe space for connection, which is what we are all craving so much right now,” Seger says.
For more information, visit mvmuseum.org.