After 10 years, the Gay Head Gallery is back. This time, it is a gallery with a mission.
Megan Ottens-Sargent, the owner of the gallery, which doubles as her home, has reopened her gallery to bring back sophisticated art to an up-Island audience, but also to engage the community in her other passions: conservation and democratic participation.
At her opening this Sunday, Ms. Ottens-Sargent will showcase work by local artists, among them Rez Williams, Lucy Mitchell, Julia Purinton and Doug Kent, that fits into her theme, the Moshup Trail Project. In addition to being an artistic inspiration, Ms. Ottens-Sargent has been deeply involved in the Moshup Trail Project as a conservation effort.
But she also recognizes the cultural impact that a show strongly associated with the land can have, which is why she has come up with an additional conservation center with the gallery, called theRareandEndangered.
“TheRareandEndangered is something I’ve been thinking about for over a decade,” she said. “I wanted to have a new way for people looking at art to make a connection to the land, so I have art, I have books that are provocative and local.
“I want to connect people to taking action, whether that’s planting a native plant in their yard, not using bleach, or joining in a local conservation effort.”
Her goal is to incorporate technology and interactivity into the art and book viewing that is more traditional in a gallery setting. “My mission is to promote conservation, and I’m going to have a monitor formatted to connect and link the viewer to the town Web site, the [Martha’s Vineyard] Commission and other resources. That way, they can look at it here, and also go home and look at it on their laptop.”
But, as she said, this is not a new idea, and in fact, was inspired by the experience she had with the previous incarnation of the Gay Head Gallery. “Because of the tininess of Gay Head and because of my involvement in town affairs, people were always coming in and wanted to get us involved and catch us up on what was going on. I want to make that more general with this gallery.”
She is fully aware that large-scale conservation projects can’t be done by a gallery alone, as much as it may inspire. “I know that this is all happening already, but I just want to be able to make it happen a little more quickly,” she said. “I see myself as adding a layer that isn’t there yet.”
And this layer, as Ms. Ottens-Sargent sees it, can be added by an understanding of and appreciation of art, especially art that reflects and projects the natural world that surrounds the gallery. “Art is a medium that can connect people, and people can develop a very sophisticated palette with time, which is indicative of how people can learn and change their view on any topic.
“The dynamism and energy that people brought in here is what helped me to decide to open the gallery again, and to let the gallery assist in my ultimate mission to promote our natural and cultural heritage, which can bring engagement in our political process.”
While Ms. Ottens-Sargent has dedicated her life to conservation — she currently serves as chair of the planning board for the Moshup Trail Project, and previously served on the board of the Environmental Education Alliance — she is not concerned that all who visit her gallery align with her own views on this or any subject.
“I know that it’s all quite complicated with the media, and all the information that is out there, to know what your position is, whether it’s about offshore wind, or the endangered species act, but people have to get engaged,” she said. “My hope is that it will help people engage in our communities, but also in their communities all over the country.”
And with charming landscapes of the bends and crooks in Moshup Trail, the sun-drenched hills of Squibnocket, and quiet trees of an Aquinnah winter to inspire, the mission will be as easily done as said.
The opening of the Gay Head Gallery is Sunday, August 14, from 5 to 8 p.m. It is located on State Road on the left, 4/10 mile past the turn to Lobsterville, before the town hall. Please park along State Road with all four tires off the road, inside the white line, or park at the town hall and walk down.
The gallery will be open Thursday to Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. and by appointment. For details, call 508-645-2776.