When artist and photographer Michael Johnson began visiting Oak Bluffs at the age of 15 back in the 1980s, he immediately fell in love with its cultural and historic charm.
“I have always found interesting its dual historical role as a spiritual/religious hub and also a center of honky-tonk bawdiness,” Mr. Johnson said. “Its architecture, its cosmopolitan vibrancy, and its role as a wonderful summer playground have always made it the town in which I have spent the most time.”
The allure of this quintessential New England small town is often conjured up by familiar images of pastel porches and wicker chairs. Mr. Johnson decided he wanted to dig deeper, though.
Over the course of several years, he worked hard to capture with his camera what he feels is the true essence of the town. In 2013 he launched his Inkwell series “that embraces the beauty, history and culture of Inkwell Beach and the town of Oak Bluffs.”
Last June the owner of the former Seasons Restaurant buiding on Circuit avenue offered the photographer the two front windows of his establishment to Mr. Johnson to display his photographs.
“The reaction was phenomenal,” Mr. Johnson said. “It allowed the owners to beautify their establishment for no cost as well as support the arts and a local artist. The upside for me is that every single day people come to my Vineyard Haven gallery having seen my art first in the centrally located windows of the Island House.”
The success of his first set of windows has led Mr. Johnson to embark on a quest to fill the numerous vacated windows of unused houses and establishments to tell a story in pictures of Our Oak Bluffs. Mr. Johnson’s hope is “that this can light the way for other artistic projects such as this, and also help create some common ground in the sometimes very contentious debate about the future evolution of Oak Bluffs and Circuit avenue.”
Michael Johnson’s gallery is located at 34A Main street, Vineyard Haven. Visit inkwell-mv.com for more information.