With some 27 years behind it, Featherstone Center for the Arts, bestriding the hill on its six rolling acres, continues to be a hub of all things creative, and is once again feeding our spirits throughout the winter. The six functional buildings, with their galleries, classrooms, art studios, offices, conference room, library, and even the Garden Gate Child Development Center, will be abuzz with activity.
Featherstone’s lifeblood is its dedication to the Vineyard community, no matter what time of year. For instance, its fall, winter, and spring community-based shows are open to all artists across the Island, making for lively exhibitions in the Francine Kelly Gallery in the Art Barn, which is open year-round from 12 to 4 pm daily, unless otherwise noted.
Ann Smith, executive director since 2010, is excited that for the first time in three years since COVID began, they are once again opening the season with a February show that follows the tradition of love as its theme. About “Love Lives Here,” running from Feb. 12 through 26, Smith says, “So many of us love Martha’s Vineyard. Our love focuses on the power of place — the beaches, the farms, the forest, the sea, the night sky, as well as the connection to people and our community, our families, friends, neighbors, and, of course, our visitors.” Featherstone intentionally wanted a theme that allowed artists to interpret love in many ways. Smith explains, “After three-plus years of hunkering down, people have really found what gives them passion and meaning, whether that’s their home or nature or friends or family. I even think about how we came together as an Island around welcoming our immigrant friends. That we showed love in every way possible.”
The next exhibit, which runs from March 5 through 26, will likewise allow for multiple expressions: “Abundance of Color.” In the past, Featherstone chose to focus on single colors such as blue, silver, and gold. Smith says, “Again, we’re feeling very full and happy this year, even though we’re in year four of COVID. But we’re learning how to live in the moment. Rather than selecting one color, we thought about focusing on how artists interpret color — whether that’s one or many.”
A sneak peek for the warmer months includes its annual kickoff to the summer season on Mother’s Day of its Flower Show, which abounds with blooms in all media. And then, Smith says, “We’re off to the races.” They have two special exhibitions coming this summer. In July, Kara Taylor, who was born on the Island and owns the Kara Taylor Gallery in Chilmark, will curate an exhibition focusing on South African artists. Starting in August, Ebony Media CEO Keija Minor, who has a home on the Vineyard, will curate an exhibition featuring its magazine covers over the decades.
Throughout the year, Featherstone will also continue to curate the free shows in the Feldman Family Artspace at the Martha’s Vineyard Film Center in Vineyard Haven. These are juried exhibitions in which Featherstone reviews submissions, selects the slate of artists, and then works with each one to coordinate their shows.
Children and adult art classes started in January for the winter 2023 season. Just some choices include sculpture, mixed media, collage, paper folding and origami, ceramics, fiber arts, and jewelry. With so many options, Smith reflects, “I always feel that in the wintertime, when people do have time to find their creative outlet, there are some easy entry points at Featherstone for people who are new to the art world.”
Smith adds that in addition to a great year planned with events, visiting artists, and guest curators, they hired a consultant to help them develop a strategic plan. She explains, “We’ve done onsite interviews and a big online survey, and we’re looking forward to receiving all that feedback and then crafting our strategic plan, which will be our roadmap for the next three to five years. I feel pretty good from the data we’ve collected that we really know our audience, and they appreciate all that we do.”
For more information on upcoming exhibitions, artists, and hours of operation, visit featherstoneart.org.