Just after a Labor Day tradition of breakfast at Art Cliff Diner with friends, Don McKillop and Susan Davy sit together on a navy leather couch in their living room. Paintings cover the walls, sculptures rest on end tables and a rack of postcards stands tall in the corner. In addition to this being their living room, it is also the Dragonfly Fine Arts Gallery which the couple owns and operates.
Columbus Day weekend will mark an end and herald a beginning for Mr. McKillop and Ms. Davy.
“We’re composing the next chapter of our lives and it’s exciting,” Ms. Davy said. “We’re embracing the risk and reward of uncertainty.”
After five years the couple is closing the Dragonfly Fine Arts Gallery and taking this moment to explore new possibilities.
It has been a good run. In their farewell letter the couple wrote: “During our five years we were honored five times with a Best of the Vineyard award. We welcomed over 15,000 visitors, represented some 75 different artists, participated in 10 Arts District strolls, put out the ‘open’ flag some 650 times.”
On the long list of events, art and accomplishments of the last five years, it’s the artists and customers Mr. McKillop and Ms. Davy remember most fondly.
“One of the things that I’ve enjoyed the most is the people that we’ve met,” Mr. McKillop said. “Our visitors are just wonderful and I’ve always said having this gallery is really great because everybody that comes through the door is happy. It’s one of the few times that they can explore art. They get back to Boston or New York or Washington and their lives are too busy with everything else. When they come in they love the experience and we love to meet them.”
“In one of my lifetimes I was a Montessori teacher and school director,” Ms. Davy said. “I really love sharing the art with the children who come in the door and I so enjoy the wonder. There are children who bring us artwork that they’ve done over the years to share with us. They’re very, very earnest and they’re thrilled when you spend time with them.”
Mr. McKillop cleared his throat and added, “we develop these annual relationships that get renewed every spring and so we’ll miss that tremendously. It kinda chokes us up.”
The couple said that the artists they represent have been tremendously kind and supportive.
“We have really close relationships with a lot of these artists,” Ms. Davy said. In one of her favorite stories Ms. Davy and Mr. McKillop were driving across the country when they stopped to spend a few nights in New Orleans. They walked into a cooperative gallery in the French Quarter and discovered the artwork of Wanda Wiggins. The artist describes her work as “African-influenced, contemporary mixed-media.”
Ms. Wiggins wasn’t at the gallery that day, but they emailed her, told her about Dragonfly and said that they thought her work would do well on Martha’s Vineyard.
“So we’ve carried her work for three years and each year we’ve sold more and more and more,” Ms. Davy said. “That’s really fun, to discover somebody, to introduce them, and then to see them succeed. That’s kind of the ultimate reward.”
Artists are supportive of the gallery owners as they make this change in life and work; some have even given a piece of their art to the couple as an expression of their appreciation. With their closing around the corner, Ms. Davy and Mr. McKillop are suggesting connections between artists and Island galleries where they see a potential relationship.
The artists are also brainstorming with the couple about what the gallery’s next incarnation might be. “We will entertain a full range of options for the physical building,” Ms. Davy said. “It could be a popup for a creative person, an artist’s workshop, a retreat center; we’re looking for something that’s not labor-intensive for us.”
Ultimately the decision to close was driven by the desire for more time. Time to spend with their 10 grandchildren who are scattered up and down the east coast, time to enjoy their Island in the summer months and time to create their own work. Ms. Davy is a photographer and Mr. McKillop is a painter.
“This past winter we spent two months in Santa Fe and I created a body of work,” Mr. McKillop said. “That was probably the first time in five years that I was able to have access to a studio and the time to create a body of work like that. In doing that I discovered there were so many other things that I haven’t explored because I’ve been away from the studio.”
Dragonfly Gallery will host two receptions before they close — one on Saturday, Sept. 7 from 5 to 7 p.m. and another on Saturday, Oct. 5, from 5 to 7 p.m.
“This is a good time of year when we can really spend time with the people who come,” Mr. McKillop said.
“We’re at a moment where we can pause and think about the next chapter,” Ms. Davy added. “It’s a little scary. And exciting.”
Dragonfly Fine Arts Gallery is located at 91 Dukes County avenue in Oak Bluffs. More information can be found on their website mvdragonfly.com.