The Friends of Family Planning Art Show and sale celebrates its 24th year at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury beginning today, May 25, and running through Sunday, May 27. With about 125 artists exhibiting and over 25 Island eateries donating goods, the art show has become an essential fundraising event for the Island’s family planning clinic.
“For us it’s really crucial,” said board member Jennifer Knight. “It’s what enables us to support the clinic.”
The majority of the clinic’s operating funds comes from Title X federal and state funds distributed by Health Imperatives Inc., the clinic’s parent organization. “Each year we have to battle for funds in the state budget, and if we don’t get the funds the clinic is in trouble,” said clinic director Catherine Coogan.
As those funds have declined, Friends of Family Planning’s role has increased as it provides financial support to the clinic by providing a monthly rent subsidy, funding professional development and purchasing supplies, such as free condoms.
This past year saw an increase in the national debate around the issues of reproductive health, and services such as those that the clinic offers became even more at risk of losing funding. Health Imperatives considered closing three sites, including the one on the Island. Last year the art show proved to be not only an avenue for financial support, but also a site for political action. More than 400 artists and attendees signed letters to the budget committee urging them to keep funding the clinic.
“This had a direct impact in that Health Imperatives was funded, which meant that we were able to keep our doors open,” said Ms. Knight. “There was an outpouring of support, and we’re grateful for that.”
If the clinic lost its funding, uninsured Island residents who rely on the sliding-scale, income-based payment would either not receive services or be forced to travel off-Island for affordable services.
“Supporting this show isn’t just about fundraising, it is about hope,” said artist Marjorie Mason. “I am very grateful to be a part of a community that has, in abundance, artistic expression and deep human caring and is capable of marrying the two for the greater good.”
Ms. Mason has been participating in the family planning art show since the mid-1980s. “We’re talking about a time when there were only four or five galleries on the Island, so the show itself had an appeal. It was very cool to be in that show and I’ve grown along with it,” she said.
Ms. Mason has also grown with Planned Parenthood. As a young girl in Florida in the 1970s, she had a difficult time finding services and information regarding women’s health, until she went to college and discovered Planned Parenthood.
“I have never forgotten the relief and gratitude I felt,” she said. “Here was a private place you could go and not be judged or violated, and just get the simple medical assistance needed. Everywhere else in my world there was nowhere to go.”
Ms. Mason views the current political debate surrounding women’s services with a degree of worry. “There seems to be more antagonism towards them now as opposed to then. Without something like Planned Parenthood, young women with no means become victimized by their own biology.”
Ms. Knight sees the board as not only a fundraising arm, but also as a force for education and political action.
“As the political climate changes, if the services were to become less and less of a given, we’re in a position to rally support again,” she said. “It’s becoming more necessary for our board to stand up for services that are much needed and essential to our community.”
Financial and political issues aside, artists and board members agree that the annual art show and gala has made its mark as one of the season’s big kickoff events.
“The fun part of it is getting all of the artists together and getting the support,” said artist, board member and art show coordinator Marston Clough, who volunteers his time to organize the show.
The art show is non-juried and open to all Island artists, new and established. “It’s nice to see this eclectic group of all ages and all stages represented — that excites me,” said Sandy Bernat of Seastone Papers.
Even high school students are involved as each year the art show holds a contest for students to design the poster. All the entries are then displayed at the art show. This year, senior Raine Monast’s design was chosen as the winner.
The Friends of Family Planning art show takes place at the Agricultural Hall in West Tisbury from Friday, May 25 through Sunday, May 27 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Admission is free, so is the parking. For more details, visit friendsoffamilyplanning.org.