A cultural cornerstone

Cousen Rose Gallery hosts exhibitions and events all summer.

Oak Bluffs is filled with some of the best hidden gems the Island has to offer. As you enter Circuit Ave. from the upper level, one of the town’s treasures is the Cousen Rose Gallery. The gallery originated as a partnership between Zita Cousens and the late Stephen Rose, hence the name. This charming gallery is housed in a gingerbread-style cottage, and although it may be a small space, it holds an immense amount of history and legacy from its 35-plus years on the Island.

The story of how the gallery came to be is a beautiful Vineyard tale that reveals just how magical the Island is for small business owners with big dreams.

While out on Circuit Ave. one day, a “For Rent” sign was spotted at a small storefront and Cousens and Rose jumped on the opportunity to go into business together.

“We saw the space for rent, loved it, envisioned the future for it, created a business plan, called the owner of the building and said ‘We’ll take it’ and the rest was history,” Cousens says. Within 48 hours, their dreams became a reality.

While at Simmons University in Boston, Cousens had begun creating one-of-a-kind handmade bags that she decided to sell in the gallery, and Rose, who was an artist with a degree from Massachusetts College of Art, sold his art there. The two of them made quite the dynamic duo for three years, until Rose moved on to sell his art in New York, and Cousens became the sole owner of the gallery. Her Island roots run deep; Cousens had spent time visiting her great-aunt, who lived on the Island year-round, since she was a baby. The Island has always held a special place in her heart, and the gallery has only strengthened that bond, which you can feel as soon as you enter the carefully curated space.

Cousen Rose has been one of the longest-running galleries on the Island, and known for pioneering the art scene in a cutting edge way with its innovative receptions that have always been the talk of the town. The gallery was the first on the Island to present outdoor courtyard receptions, adding a new dimension to what the budding gallery scene could be. These receptions not only celebrate artists, but feature book readings and signings by featured authors, live musicians setting the vibe, and an opportunity for the community and visitors to come together. Cousen Rose Gallery celebrates everyone from emerging to renowned artists and all those in between. The gallery prides itself in being inclusive and diverse — for all ages, backgrounds, and ethnicities. “There is something for a child, and something for someone who is 100 years old, we have something for everyone who may stop by,” Cousens says.

Although Cousen Rose Gallery is Black-owned, “It is not just an Black art gallery,” Cousens says. “With a wide range of art, the gallery appeals to a global collection of people.”

The gallery also helps Islanders and visitors who seek assistance in investing in art that will stand the test of time. Throughout the years many people have popped into the gallery on a whim, and left as an investor with a one-of-a-kind art piece. Cousens makes sure that her guests are able to leave the gallery with not only a beautiful experience but with new knowledge about the art world.

The first exhibition Cousen Rose Gallery will showcase this summer is titled “Textures and Visual Alchemy,” which will be up weekends in June after opening Memorial Day weekend. The featured artists for the gallery’s summer debut exhibition are Meg Black, Robert Fitzgerald, Rayhart, Patricia Littlefield, and Deborah Loeb Bohren. The featured materials are abaca, encaustics, acrylic on canvas, collages made from sandpaper, and abstract photography. During the summer months of July and August, visitors can look forward to new exhibitions weekly. This includes weekly receptions featuring different artists and authors, held to the backdrop of live music, which has become a highly anticipated tradition in Oak Bluffs.

Cousen Rose Gallery, 71 Upper Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs. The gallery opened for the 2024 season Memorial Day weekend. Visit cousenrose.com for more information.