Eye on Arts: Summer Events on Martha’s Vineyard


A night at the drive-in, by Joshua Robinson White for TMVFF

We could all use a little entertainment these days. Luckily, local organizations have found a number of creative ways to keep people engaged and their various communities connected during these challenging times. Since the mandates for extending openings change almost weekly and somewhat unpredictably, organizations generally have plans A, B, and C in place to allow them to adapt to any situation. No matter where the state may be in terms of opening, at the very least, there will be plenty of virtual options for folks to keep up with culture from home.

Many facilities are also finding ways to utilize open air spaces.

As of this writing, the Martha’s Vineyard Museum’s main building is shuttered until further notice. To continue to accommodate visitors, the staff has expanded its outdoor activities and options considerably. “The situation caused us to think about what we can do outside,” says chief curator Bonnie Stacy. “A lot of things that we were going to do eventually have been moved forward so that we can offer more of an outside experience.”

Among the projects that were already moving forward in anticipation of the summer season are the completion of the Rose Styron garden and the installation of a large solar-powered kinetic sculpture. The garden will feature plantings by the M.V. Garden Club and plaques with poetry. “It’s a contemplative space,” says Stacy.

The impressive metal sculpture Sun Bird, by Tim Laursen is scheduled to start flapping its wings on the museum campus starting sometime in July.

From the “Museum Inside Out” exhibit, by Jackie Baer

The spacious outbuilding, Doherty Hall, will be open all summer with restrictions as to how many people can enter at a time and arrows on the floor to direct one-way traffic. Home to some of the larger objects in the museum’s collection, the hall includes exhibits (newly enhanced with information signage) such as a number of whaling and fishing vessels, an original hearse from the town of Edgartown, the Mayhew peddler’s cart used for deliveries at Alley’s General Store and more.

The historic catboat “Vanity,” built in 1923,  will not be sailing this summer, but the 22-foot vessel will be stationed on the grounds, along with information on its builder, Manuel Swartz Roberts, and the boat’s history as a fishing, scalloping, and charter boat.

The museum welcomes Islanders and visitors to stop by anytime to enjoy the spacious front lawn with its impressive views of Lagoon Pond and beyond. Social distancing circles will be laid out to encourage picnickers to relax in a safe environment. A campus map has been installed to help direct visitors through all of the outdoor attractions. The map station also includes directions for a family scavenger hunt.

Throughout the summer, the museum staff plans to take advantage of its main building’s large picture windows to situate exhibits for outdoor viewing. Randi Baird’s photo exhibit Everyday Heroes is currently on view. The series features large images of essential workers and other Islanders doing their part to help us get through the current crisis.

Depending on where things stand later in the summer, the museum may allow small groups to visit the main building for socially distanced tours. There are also plenty of virtual options available on the museum’s website and social media platforms, including lectures, children’s activities, and more.

See all virtual options at mvmuseum.org

Featherstone Center for the Arts campus extends over six acres of rolling terrain, with multiple buildings, outdoor sculptures, gardens, and a meditation maze. Although the nonprofit had no plans as of mid-June to open up any of the indoor spaces, the staff hopes to offer a number of options for open air exhibits and activities.

“We want to do as many things as we can outside,” executive director Ann Smith told us. Among the options for the summer are drive-up art shows, outdoor concerts and movies, and drive-around art shows.

Featherstone plans to continue its long history of offering classes for both adults and children. With a number of tents at the ready, the staff will likely be holding outdoor sessions in a variety of artistic fields. Also under discussion are evening family art activities, with families confined to their own specified space and an art teacher in the center of the circle.

Since March, Featherstone has gone to great lengths so offer digital alternatives to their gallery shows. All of the scheduled exhibits will be offered either online or, if all goes well, in the Francine Kelly Gallery. Poetry and other writing workshops are currently available online until groups can meet in person again.

“We’re going to maintain thinking about how to move ahead going forward,” Smith says. “We’ll do a combination of digital and on-location programming. We hope to have in-person classes and gatherings again when it’s safe and we’ll continue with our online offering which has opened us up to new audiences beyond the Vineyard.”


Organizations that rely on live performances are facing real challenges in finding ways to keep their audiences engaged and their staff employed. However, both the Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse and the Yard have met those challenges in inspired ways.

Among the first to cancel the 2020 summer season for the safety of the community, the Playhouse started hosting virtual events almost immediately. Zoom-based initiatives include readings of poetry and Shakespeare monologues, a five-minute play competition that concluded with virtual readings of the winning entries and the presentation of a prerecorded (pre-pandemic) solo performance with music by actor/singer/writer Molly Conole.

Going forward, Playhouse artistic director M.J. Bruder Munafo says that the organization hopes to present a limited series of their popular Monday Night Special readings on Zoom, with a specific focus this year. “This summer we are programming in response to current events,” she says. “The plays will be by African American writers and we want to feature themes surrounding social injustice and issues of institutional racism.”

For their annual fundraising gala, the Playhouse will also be turning to the digital platform to host a virtual summer event called Waiting in the Wings. The program will feature both live and recorded segments including, among other things, an excerpt from a solo show previously presented at the Playhouse, songs from the popular cabaret series, celebrity guests, and more. “It will be a little bit of a variety show,” says Munafo. Although not all the details were finalized as of this writing, the virtual gala is scheduled for the evening of Thursday, July 23.

Since the Playhouse also serves double duty as an art gallery, Munafo plans to continue that tradition by hosting digital art shows all summer. Each month a variety of different local artists will be featured. In place of the Summer Stars theater camp, the Playhouse will offer free kids’ programming every Wednesday from 11 am to 2 pm on Zoom.

The Yard in Chilmark, an organization that has been fostering and presenting new work in all types of dance for three decades, is finding its path particularly limited in what they can offer virtually. But, since the Yard’s focus has always been on innovation, the staff has found various ways to keep a presence on the Island.

Elio Silva of Vineyard Grocer, from “Everyday Heroes” by Randi Baird

Among other things, the Yard is hosting online classes in dance, yoga, and pilates and hopes to be able to offer classes for adults and children in the open air at some point this summer. Since the facility incorporates lots of lush outdoor space (it is named the Yard, after all) the staff plans to offer some outdoor performances, continuing their tradition of presenting live music, and eventually dance performances. “We’ll focus on artists from the Vineyard and  Boston,” says artistic director/executive producer David R. White. “We’re looking at artists who are easy for us to program at shorter notice and with limited staff.”

The Yard is also launching a very unique new online interactive project called YardWork. They have reached out to some of the artists who were originally scheduled to perform during the 2020 Yard Arts  season, and have asked them to create a series of prompts to inspire creative output by participants.

Stay tuned for upcoming offerings from the Yard. “Our goal has been, beginning in July, to have a kind of low profile summer, while still keeping things alive,” White says. “Our goal this year is to keep everyone safe and continue to earn the trust of our audiences.”


There are two nonprofit film organizations on Martha’s Vineyard, and both had to halt in-house screenings as of March. However, both have been proactive in offering online screenings and educational opportunities, as well as suggestions for at-home viewing,

The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival will up the ante by offering drive-in movies in the parking lot behind the Ice Arena on Edgartown-Vineyard Haven Road. Audiences can enjoy an old-fashioned experience — with the advantages of modern technology — from the safety and comfort of their own vehicles. Films will be projected onto a large screen, while the audio will be transmitted via radio.

The MVFF plans to host four movies per week, focusing on family classics and comedies. They will also offer some movies that address the issues of the day, such as documentaries by summer resident Dawn Porter, whose Trilogy Films company is dedicated to focusing on civil rights and social justice themes.

All of the screenings will be offered on a pay-what-you-will basis. “I think that in these times  it’s  important to allow anyone to come, no matter their economic situation,” says programming director Brian Ditchfield.

Online programming will include films, talks and fun, educational offerings for kids.


The M.V. Film Society, which operates the M.V. Film Center as well as the Capawock and Island Theaters, has presented a variety of online offerings since the beginning of the shutdown. At press time, the staff is preparing to open up the Film Center to in-house screenings with strict social distancing restrictions in place.

To determine how their loyal audience members would react to returning to the theater under various conditions, the MVFS sent out a questionnaire in June and is planning according to the needs and concerns of their members and other respondents. In the meantime, the organization is displaying the same sort of resiliency as many of the other entertainment-based organizations on the Island.

“We’ve continued to offer lots of different online cinema options,” says Film Center executive director Richard Paradise. “Including a number of independent films and a selection of films that deal with racism and social injustice. We’re trying to keep our members and our audiences engaged until the time we can gather in the theater together again.”


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