Art Sale for Hope

Sunday afternoon, a line of hopeful Islanders snaked from Dragonfly Gallery’s front door around the corner in Oak Bluffs. Lines outside an art gallery? In October? That’s right — with a frisson of anticipation, even competition, pulsing up and down the street’s edge. “It’s like trying to get World Series tickets,” laughed one man as he took a number.

What united the waiting crowd, some camped out for hours, was not the Red Sox but rather an unusual sale that synthesized two hopes. One, the hope those waiting felt for the presidential run of Sen. Barack Obama, and, two, the (let’s be honest) more urgent hope of getting a piece of Island art they otherwise couldn’t afford.

Anyone who made a donation of one hundred dollars or more to the Obama campaign could select a work of art and walk away with it. “Oh, you got the Max Decker!” said a man with number fifty-seven, still waiting for his turn in the gallery, as someone ahead in line came out carrying a landscape oil.

Out too came an Allen Whiting, a Ruth Adams, a Margot Datz, a Marjorie Mason, a Paul Karasik and more. Out bulged the apron pockets of Leslie Baker, the West Tisbury artist who organized the event, as she collected Obama donation cards and checks. Many Islanders who took a piece of art donated more than the minimum hundred dollars to the campaign, though money was tight for them. Some mentioned how critical they felt this election would be for the country.

Nearly a hundred artists donated works — extraordinary, considering the economy, how often Island artists are asked to donate for some benefit or other, and the fact that artists, when they donate their work, can write off only the cost of materials, not their time, nor the market value of that work. And then — when the walls were bare after the first hour of the two-day event — many artists donated more work, for the second day.

This was, for art lovers and political junkies, better than the Sox. The sale raised more than twenty thousand dollars, a cheeky reminder of just how much chutzpah, community spirit and cash a single determined Vineyarder can muster. Its success, on so many fronts, is reason for hope.