Fitness centers usually bring to mind weights, elliptical machines, some sweat and maybe even a hot tub. Alida O’Loughlin has turned the Vineyard Tennis Center, Workout & Spa into an art gallery, too, specializing in photography. Over the past year she has organized numerous shows at the fitness center. Tonight, May 10, from 5 to 7 p.m. she is hosting a reception for her own artwork. The show continues through the rest of May.
The idea of combining art and fitness began during Ms. O’Loughlin’s regular workouts. She noticed that the center already had “different things on the wall, but it had been sitting there,” she said. “At a certain point, when art just simply sits you don’t see it anymore.”
Ms. O’Loughlin saw this as an opportunity to feature various photographers who didn’t usually have the opportunity to display their work. She knows firsthand the challenges photographers face, as she herself is an accomplished one. She has had several shows on the Island, as well as in Cambridge and Northampton. She came to the medium late, not starting until she was over 70, although she has taken pictures her whole life. When she received a framed copy of one of her photographs as a gift, she saw her hobby in a whole new way.
Ms. O’Loughlin grew up in Holland, near the North Sea. “There was always a special kind of light, an interplay between the sky, the clouds, the wind, the water and whatever sunlight might bring shadows,” she says in her artist statement. She came of age during World War II when the Nazis would not allow youth groups to convene unless they were deemed non-threatening. She joined the one group in her area that existed under this heading, the Netherlands Youth Group for the Study of Nature.
“I learned to see,” she said of her time there learning to identify trees and plants. “I learned how to discern different shapes and forms that nature had to offer. Photography is just a way of translating that.”
Her journey to the Vineayard began while studying at the University of Grenoble where she met an American student. Her new friend suggested she study in the U.S., and Ms. O’Loughlin chose the University of Massachusetts. This was followed by stints at Boston University and New York University where she studied romance languages and political science. She has worked as a hydraulic engineer, as the Director of the Cambridge Center of Adult Education and then landed in real estate. She came to the Island because of an advertisement in the Cambridge Chronicle about land for sale.
“Everything is a story...one thing leads to the next,” she said.
Ms. O’Loughlin rarely uses a digital camera as she appreciates the dimension and depth that film allows.
“I love to be able to walk into my photographs. With digital, everything is sharp...it’s sharp here and here and here...I can’t walk into it.”
To see her Virginia waterfall picture is to understand what she means. Her varied subject matter also includes a storm sky from Beach Road, the opening of the ferry door looking out onto the harbor and geese walking on the beach grass at Lambert’s Cove.
Since March of last year, Ms. O’Loughlin has organized many shows featuring local photographers such as Anthony Austin, Lynn Christoffers, Phyllis Dunn, Sam Hiser, Susan Waldrop, Kye Howell and Ilao Jackson. She changes out the exhibits every three to five weeks to keep it fresh for the workout members, and to give exposure to more photographers.
Connie McHugh, owner of the The Vineyard Tennis Center, Workout & Spa, observed that Ms. O’Loughlin has doubled the volume of work displayed during her recent tenure as curator. Ms. McHugh likes having the photographs in the corridors, stairways and locker rooms, those places where people are in transition or relaxation and they can pause to really take in the work.
“The club gets exposure,” Ms. McHugh lists as another perk. “People come here to see the photographs and then discover the club.”
Ms. O’Loughlin notes that the space is ideal in how it is naturally divided into four sections, allowing the photographer to display his or her work into natural groupings.
“It’s a real collaboration between artists and a commercial space that’s non-proprietary,” Ms. O’Loughlin said.
The Vineyard Tennis Center, Workout & Spa is located at 22 Airport Road in West Tisbury. Call 508-696-8000.