Counting Scarecrows

A graceful ballerina stands near the entrance to the Martha’s Savings Bank in Vineyard Haven, perfectly turned out and reminding you to check your balance. A jaunty artist — wait a minute, that looks like Jackson Pollock — tends his easel outside Heather Gardens on State Road in West Tisbury. A straw tribute to Leonardo da Vinci greets you as you enter Edgartown Books on Main street, Edgartown, an inspiration if ever there was one to buy a book on Italian art history to curl up with when the next weekend northeaster roars ashore, rattling windows with wind and pelting rooftops with rain.

The clever scarecrows that have popped up all around the Island come to us courtesy of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, which marks its tenth year of hosting the scarecrow project, a singular combination of public art and fund-raising.

Island businesses are invited to make a seventy-five dollar donation to the charter school and they receive a scarecrow as a thank-you. The builders are students and parents at the charter school. The original aim of the project was not just fund-raising but also to build community among charter school families and give the school a presence around the community, brightening the darkening days of late autumn with creative displays.

It has worked very well. Often there is a theme — this year many of the scarecrow builders were inspired by the theme of art masterpieces — although the theme is not mandatory and the artistic builders often find their own inspiration when fashioning their scarecrows. The Keith Haring impression that hangs outside Bowl and Board on Main street, Vineyard Haven is one example.

So the next time you are out, try counting the scarecrows, and send your silent message of thanks to the charter school for this inspired project, and to the many Island business which support it. It is a concrete example of people working to make the Vineyard a creative, thoughtful place to live.