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Hospital or Art Museum? On the Vineyard It’s Both

April 16, 2019

By: Louisa Hufstader, Vineyard Gazette

What began as a rebellion against bland institutional décor has led the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to assemble a permanent art collection of close to 700 works, by some 200 contemporary artists with ties to the Island.

At the hospital, art is almost everywhere you look, in the corridors, patient rooms and waiting areas. The main lobby displays paintings, collages, wood works and sculpture, while the show in the emergency waiting room includes light-hearted pieces such as Kate Feiffer’s 140 Characters in a Tweet and a quartet of cartoons by Paul Karasik.

“We’ve tried to have some humor because people have to sit here for so long,” said curator Monina von Opel.

Organized by artist, the catalog includes slides of each work and links to find out more.

With iPads connected to the online catalog, art lends a hand in the hospital rehabilitation department. “A patient will choose a painting and then walk to it, rather than go back and forth in the rehab center, which is boring,” Ms. von Opel said.

Beyond the hospital community, Ms. von Opel said she sometimes hears from new homeowners who stroll the hospital halls and visit the online catalog to look for local artists.

“They walk about or go online to see which ones they want to follow up on,” she said.

Ms. von Opel is the primary scout for the hospital collection, visiting Island galleries and studios to seek out new works. She also attends art shows at the regional high school.

“The art department at the high school is remarkable,” Ms. von Opel said. Among the young artists she’s discovered there is Gordon Moore, whose drawing Old Hands hangs at the hospital alongside a life study by his father Andrew Moore.

The ultimate decision to acquire a new piece is made by the hospital’s art committee, chaired by Mr. Miller. The committee’s other members are anonymous, Ms. von Opel said. The hospital pays for framing.

When it comes time to hang the work, Ms. von Opel teams up with Mr. Miller, who measures the pieces, and Mr. Sweet, who attaches them to the wall. “I don’t drill,” she said.

On the brink of this year’s arts season on the Vineyard, Ms. von Opel expects to be busy looking for more pieces to add to the hospital collection.

“We have a lot of walls left,” she said. While her wish list is short — she’d love to acquire original paintings by Thomas Hart Benton and Stan Murphy — there is always more to discover.

“Every time I think I’ve covered the whole Island, something else turns up,” she said.


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