Splashed with sun and circled by artists and admirers, 418 pieces of artwork hung from a wire fence roped around the perimeter of the Tabernacle yesterday, shaping the 52nd annual All-Island Art Show and Sale itself into the scene of a fine painting.
There were art aficionados exploring, Island visitors milling, judges examining and the Island artists themselves — plopped in lawn chairs on grass surrounding the exhibit, sunning themselves, spouting the methods, mediums and motivations for their work to prospective customers or bickering about the placement of their pieces.
The exhibit featured the artwork of year-round and summer resident artists in a cultural celebration of local creators and their creations.
“Art is important on this Island,” said Jeanne Wells, cochairman of the committee that organizes the show. “This gives not only artists but amateur artists a chance to show their art together.”
Artists displayed their work in categories — mixed media, black and white photography, digital color, oil and acrylics, watercolors and transparent acrylics, watercolors and acrylics, pastel, collage and drawing and graphics. Six judges ranked the first, second and third place works in each category. Pieces just shy of a ranking earned an honorable mention and a number of merit awards were also distributed. Each award-winning artist received a ribbon and a cash prize between $20 and $125.
A $1,000 donation from art lovers and Oak Bluffs residents Richard and Stephanie Parker filled gaps in this year’s prize money fund caused by the lagging economy. “I came to the first [committee] meeting thinking we were going to have to scale back our awards, but [the Parkers} underwrote the show,” said Ms. Wells.
Talk of economic strain on the art community was ubiquitous among the artists, but the numbers of the day cooled many financial qualms. Eighty-seven artists participated in the exhibit this year, only a pinch less than last year’s showing of 95. The repertoire of art shrank from the 2008 show by only 21 pieces.
“I think there’s been more attendance this year than I have ever seen before,” said committee member Peter Yoars of Oak Bluffs.
Warren Gaines of Edgartown said that sales of his pastel prints, $39 carry-away images of the Edgartown Lighthouse, sailboats catching wind to sea and other Vineyard scenes that sell well with tourists, have not plummeted much since the economic downturn. The low price tag on his prints lures impulse buyers and vacationers looking to bring home an Island memento.
Mr. Gaines has participated in five all-Island art shows.
“It’s great exposure,” Mr. Gaines said. “There are a lot of people here. It’s neat to hang your work among other artwork of the same medium.”
The show is one art scene that appeals to artists with varying experience and art shoppers with varying sums available for art purchases. “A lot of the art is affordable because you don’t have the overhead of a gallery,” Ms. Wells said.
The cheapest buy of the show goes for a dime. Tiny metallic star stickers are on sale for attendees to press on the tag of their favorite piece. The artist of the work most popular among the masses earns a pink ribbon and a gift certificate to daRosa’s printing company on Circuit avenue.
By midmorning yesterday, two red and green stars punctuated the information tag for Sailing Lessons, an oil image of boys learning to maneuver white sails on the sea painted by Sue Mullin of West Tisbury.
“I’m thrilled,” said Ms. Mullin of her shiny seals of approval. “I paint pretty things. Instead of trying to paint a political statement or a religious assertion, I just paint what I think is beautiful. If someone agrees with me, that’s a wonderful thing.”