That treasure that sits on top of the hill in Vineyard Haven, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, isn’t slowing down — it’s rolling right into a robust fall. There are bountiful offerings of exhibitions, events, and workshops for all tastes and ages.
Two shows open on Labor Day weekend. The first is “The Bureau: Grow, As We Are,” running from Sept. 3 through Jan. 8. The Bureau, a collective made up of creative directors, visual artists, designers, copywriters, poets, teachers, researchers, editors, and poets initially visited the Island three years ago and returned last summer to begin documenting the Black community. They began gathering photographic and film portraits, along with audio interviews of families and individuals with connections to the Island that span several generations. The group also documented perspectives from first time visitors and longtime business owners. The stunning, large-format portraits, staged in front of exquisite, painted backdrops or drapery recall historic portrait paintings. The museum website explains, “This exhibition serves not only as an enrichment of the Black body that is deeply woven throughout the history of the Island, but also as a beaming lighthouse for our future to connect and live out, even if briefly, the freedom dreams of our ancestors.”
The second of the Labor Day weekend openings is “The Art of William Blakesley,” which will be on view from Sept. 3 through Nov. 3. For more than a half century, this local artist, who would be 100 years old if he were still with us, captured the everyday lives of Vineyarders and summer tourists through his sketches, drawings, and paintings. This exhibition is part of a retrospective in collaboration with the Featherstone Center for the Arts.
Next up will be “Unfreedom,” from Sept. 30 through Feb. 12, which looks at the theme of unfreedom through the lens of enslavement, indentured and debt-servitude, and incarceration here on the Island from post-contact on. It examines the interwoven stories of those who suffered unfreedom and those who benefitted from it, as well as its lasting impact on families and communities — and the ways in which some Islanders are still caught in a state of unfreedom.
“Playing Together,” from Oct. 26 to Feb. 5, is about the beloved tradition starting in the early 1940s of the All Island Orchestra, which still continues today with student musicians from across the Vineyard, pulling from its archives of photographs, instruments, and uniforms, and oral histories.
In terms of events and classes, research librarian Bow Van Riper’s monthly virtual “Hidden Collections” sessions will be returning. In each he delves into the museum’s thousands of seldom-seen objects whose history and associations tell nuanced, complicated, colorful, and challenging stories about the Island. And for those who want to dive more deeply into the Island’s background — and soak up Van Riper’s boundless knowledge — there will be another offering of his “Introduction to Martha’s Vineyard History,” which includes college-level lectures, artifact study, gallery visits, and more.
The fun and popular “One Island Many Dishes: Brown-bag Lunch Series” will return with a combination of museum staff and outside presenters sharing their foodways stories. One program will focus on myths of the Thanksgiving table. Or, if you prefer a morning meal, there will be a bagel breakfast culinary program “What Makes a Meal More than a Meal?” by cookbook author and food historian Joan Nathan. She will share the intersection of food and community, paying special attention to Jewish food on the Vineyard, using historical recipes and stories collected by the museum’s oral history curator, Linsey Lee.
On the media side, there will be an outdoor screening of “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America” with a Q & A afterwards by Kyle Williams of A Long Talk, an organization dedicated to anti-racism activation experiences, which has selected the Island as one of the communities of change.
If you prefer something more-hands on, there will be a stone carving demonstration kicking off the Halloween season where you can learn about and try your hand at one of the most critically endangered heritage crafts in the world. Master stone carver Chris Pellettieri will demonstrate this nearly lost art and explain the intricacies of keeping an endangered trade alive. Returning again this year will be the super-popular Historic Cemetery Walking Tours to peruse beautiful and unique gravestones commemorating Islanders of the past. For teens there will be the ARTifact class on Gravestone Carving and Grim Poetry. The youth will use the original old Island gravestones, for people and even chickens, that feature creepy art and grim poetry as inspiration for engraving spooky clay gravestones themselves. At the Spooky Scrimshaw Pumpkins program, youth and families will be able to combine the seafaring art of scrimshaws using templates to decorate their own Island-grown pumpkin.
There will be programming at the museum’s Cooke House and Legacy Gardens in Edgartown. For families and kids, there will be a candle-making workshop and sailors’ rope crafts, as well as regular family and school programs throughout the fall. For adults, there will be a historical horticulture workshop on preserving your garden bounty through drying and sugaring. And if you are interested in gaining a little serenity, there will be Monday morning meditation with YogiJay, who will lead half-hour sessions introducing meditation’s benefits and a variety of techniques to help you find your own unique style.
And, if you are coming to the museum for any of the array of fall goings on, you should save time for its wonderful array of permanent exhibitions, which will leave you always wanting to return for more.
The Martha’s Vineyard Museum is at 151 Lagoon Pond Road in Vineyard Haven. See the website for up-to-date information: mvmuseum.org.