On a sunny August morning in 1990, a retired lawyer living on the Vineyard was setting up his presentation for that year’s All Island Art Show at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs.
“I’m getting back into the spirit of Martha’s Vineyard,” he told a Gazette reporter at the time. It was a comment the reporter said reflected the atmosphere of the day. And it’s a sentiment, according to Gazette records, that has marked the last half-century for the All Island Art Show, which opens for its 50th year Monday at the Tabernacle.
“It has grown a lot. There’s more variety and more artists,” said Jeanne Wells, chairman of the event. “It’s a festive sort of day.”
Artists sit on the grass, she said, watching members of the public admire their works. Some turn their creative focus on the event itself, painting or photographing the art-laden Tabernacle. Children and their older counterparts run around with their 10-cent stickers (one per person) and leave them by their favorite pieces. Patrons purchase works from artists without the added cost of a middle man. And judges work their way around the Tabernacle looking for the best of each medium and deciding who will go home with the $50 best of show prize.
Started by Sydna White in 1958, the event became an annual affair following a well-attended and enthusiastically received first show.
Since then, the All Island Show has developed into both a cultural attraction and a low-priced forum for professional and amateur Vineyard artists to exhibit their works.
“This is the day when anyone may bring his artistic creation and have it viewed by a large audience,” the Gazette wrote of the event in 1979.
Forty-four artists entered their work the first year, a number organizers estimate will be well over a hundred this year, featuring an eclectic collection consistent with the event’s history.
The media categories include oils and opaque acrylics, watercolors, graphics, drawings, pastels, mixed media, sculpture, collage, colored and black and white photography and any altered process piece.
“There’s a tremendous amount of very high-class competition in all aspects of visual arts,” said Aaron Galvin, who was picked as last year’s best of show with his piece Rose and Bud. “So it’s a good way to stretch your capabilities by entering and trying to do well.”
According to archives and Ms. Wells, themes presented at the show have always been across the board and certainly never limited to Vineyard scenes. Following the show in 1986, the Gazette reported a collection ranging, “from a thick painting of fiery protest against apartheid to the most serene of sailboats in Menemsha.”
According to a press release for the event, the six judges, all members of the Island art community, will choose a first, second, third and honorable place winner in each medium, as well as one piece in the event as best of show. They will also select recipients of the special Ruth Bogan Award, the merit awards, two Old Sculpin Awards from the Martha’s Vineyard Art Association, the Ann Culbert Award for Creativity and nine special awards in honor of the All Island Art Show’s nine Vineyard Treasurers.
There will be cash awards for all first place winners and the best of show as well as the recipients of the Old Sculpin awards, the Anne Clark Culbert for Creativity awards, and the Ruth J. Bogan awards. The awards that honor the nine treasurers also come with cash prizes.
The registration fee was 50 cents in 1958. Fifty years later, the fees range from $5 for one entry to $20 for five entries and $20 for a portfolio. Each artist is limited to five entries and one portfolio.
Fees have increased through the years to meet the rising costs of the show, Ms. Wells said. It’s a nonprofit show, so proceeds go towards awards, scholarships, the Tabernacle and “just enough to start the show next year.”
The show is open to artists age 16 or older who are staying on the Island with an Island address. It runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and registration and set-up begins at 8:30 a.m.
“It’s a very good show,” said Mr. Galvin. “It’s worthwhile seeing and worthwhile spending some time there.”
The All Island Art Show will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, August 4 at the Tabernacle in Oak Bluffs. Entrants will register from 8:30 to 10 a.m. on the day of the show. Registration forms will be available at the Tabernacle the morning of the show from 8 a.m. All art must be removed by 4 p.m. Artists of 16 years or older who have a valid Island address may submit as many as five entries in the show and may display in a portfolio as many as 30 pieces of their work. No glass. No piece may be larger than 30 by 40 inches including the frame.