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Arts & Culture

A Haven for Creativity

Arts and Culture thrive on Martha’s Vineyard. For years, all sorts of creative minds have found solitude and a place for reflection on the Island, inspired by the gorgeous scenery and relaxed way of life. Authors, painters, sculptors, photographers, dancers, actors, artisans, and filmmakers infuse the Island communities with a tangibly vibrant cultural life.

More than a dozen public galleries display an eclectic mix of work by talented Vineyarders and internationally-renowned off-island artists. Lose yourself in impressionist views of the ever-present sea and marvel at fanciful sculpture. You could spend weeks discovering all the art the Island has to offer, and more is being created all the time! Several artists and artisans open their studios, granting the public a first-hand look at their creative process, even offering courses and hands-on activities to inspire your own creative potential.

Plein Air Art- Gay Head Lighthouse, Aquinnah Field Gallery, Chilmark, Martha's Vineyard

Classical and experimental incarnations of the performing arts also flourish here. Performances span dance, music, and theater in venues ranging from a large performing arts center to more intimate stages across the Island. Many playwrights and directors often premiere their newest work on Vineyard stages.

Film is also a mainstay of Island culture, with two annual film festivals in March and in September. Two film societies on the Island express varied styles, and both also often invite filmmakers to speak and inspire discussion at many of their screenings.

A Culture Shaped by Historic Traditions

Alongside the Vineyard’s rich arts scene are traditions stretching back 10,000 years. Descendants of the Island’s earliest Wampanoag inhabitants preserve their tribal culture at the Aquinnah Cultural Center. Stately mansions, built by intrepid 19th-century whaling captains who called Edgartown home, transport visitors to the days of New England’s maritime glories. Discover these and other stories at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, in several historic houses, and at the island’s five lighthouses.

East Chop Lighthouse, Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard

A diversity of cultures and lifestyles forged and continues to shape communities on Martha’s Vineyard. During and after the Great Depression, African Americans came here seeking economic independence. Visit landmarks of their story along the African American Heritage Trail. Faithful parishioners of the Methodist Camp Meeting brought bright colors and life to Oak Bluffs with their whimsical “Gingerbread Cottages,” constructed at the height of the revival’s popularity in the late 1800s.

Immerse Yourself in the Vineyard’s Arts & Culture

Arts App Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce

How do you get involved in the great creative work happening on the Vineyard? One way to stay connected is Arts App, a mobile application piloted by Cape Cod and the Islands. The free app is available from the iPhone or Google Play Store, and puts a directory, a map, an events calendar, and news and twitter feeds at your fingertips. Each organization controls its own page, ensuring you get the most up-to-date information.

Still need some inspiration for what to do? Take a look at these sample itineraries: 1 Day Itinerary3 Day Itinerary and Family Friendly Itinerary. Find one that suits your needs – whether you want to dedicate an afternoon to the arts, or several days of your visit!

Fall for the Arts

Each fall, Martha’s Vineyard, along with Cape Cod and Nantucket, dedicates the entire month of October to a celebration of the arts. Fall for the Arts strives to initiate and sustain conversations among artists, patrons, and the public. For up-to-date information about this year’s festival, click here or visit the homepage of ARTS Martha’s Vineyard, an arts and culture collaborative on the Island.

Fall for the Arts runs throughout the month of October, drawing visitors to enjoy the as-yet under-appreciated autumn “shoulder season,” when temperatures cool slightly, and the largest crowds disperse, making for a more tranquil Vineyard experience. Galleries and studios stay open for the festival, and signature events unique to the Island take place every weekend. Among these, the Vineyard Artisans Festival showcases varied handicrafts made on the Island. The culinary arts also figure prominently, with “Art of Chocolate” at Featherstone Center for the Arts and the Food & Wine Festival. The month concludes with Art*Island, a festival of arts & ideas.

Artisans Martha's Vineyard Chamber of Commerce

Check back soon for updates about this year’s Fall for the Arts partners and events!

Specific Organizations:

Aquinnah Cultural Center

Martha’s Vineyard Museum

African American Heritage Trail

Martha’s Vineyard Camp Meeting Association

Featherstone Center for the Arts

Martha’s Vineyard Food & Wine Festival

Local Wild Food Challenge