Dorothy Burnham spends most of the summer perched on the porch of her bright blue cottage in the Oak Bluffs Camp Ground. From there, she can chat with neighbors passing by, keep cool in the shade and admire the community that she has known nearly all of her very long life.

This year, Ms. Burnham turned 108 years old. She admits that her memory is fading, but her enthusiasm for art is unwavering.

On Saturday, July 29, the Oak Bluffs Library will host an artist reception for Ms. Burnham from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The exhibit continues through July 31.

If art is the key to longevity for Ms. Burnham, so was her career. She taught at SUNY Empire as a biology professor for four decades, retiring in 2014 at 99 years old.

Camp Ground neighbors stop by for a visit. — Jeanna Shepard

SUNY Empire recently created the Dorothy Burnham scholarship to honor her career in the life sciences and involvement in the civil rights movement.

“It’s true that it was [difficult for women to be scientists] and especially hard for poor people,” Ms. Burnham recalled. “I think at first, I became very much interested in it all when I thought I wanted to become a medical doctor... But medical school, at that point, was too expensive.”

Her neighbors continue to keep her up to date on latest developments in biology, including neighbor Holly Ganz, a microbiologist, who walked by during a porch interview with Ms. Burnham.

“I’m going to come visit you soon and we can talk all about microbes,” Ms. Ganz called out.

“I still need to learn about all of the new things that have happened lately,” replied Ms. Burnham.

Art has also been a passion for a long time — over 90 years. Ms. Burnham picked up her first paint brush in the 1930s at the Henry Street Settlement Music School in Brooklyn, N.Y.

While her children took music lessons, she passed the time in an art studio down the hall practicing brush strokes and exploring mediums.

“She’s always, always, always been engaged with something,” said Claudia Loftis, Ms. Burnham’s daughter. “Just taking us to music class, I mean she was not trying to sit and just look at the paper or something. She went to art class herself.”

Today, Ms. Burnham’s artistic specialty is collages with watercolor backgrounds. She flips through old magazines, looking for the most brightly colored pictures to cut out. Then, she paints a background setting and layers the cutouts over it with glue. The end result is a vibrant, abstract patchwork.

Ms. Burnham divides her time between Brooklyn, Boston and the Vineyard, spending summers at the Camp Ground with her family — a place they have considered home for over 75 years. She said that the Island’s natural beauty, historic buildings and community of artists inspire her artwork and keep her coming back each year.

“There’s a lot of inspiring artists here... there’s also an art gallery in Edgartown that I really like, too,” she said.

For more information about the exhibit and artist reception for Ms. Burnham, visit