Artist Anne Grandin calls herself a spiritualist, specifically a Native American spiritualist. This belief system drives the flowing, circular rhythms in her paintings — which have been exhibited here at Carol Craven Gallery, Featherstone Center for the Arts and the Old Sculpin Gallery — and it fits neatly, too, with her latest project, the Tisbury mural, which will take its place on the expansive wall on the Stop & Shop come spring.
Not only does the Island’s native Wampanoag culture feature in the mural’s historical depiction of Martha’s Vineyard, the project itself has a circular quality and flow that pleases Ms. Grandin.
“It’s really not going to be my piece in the end, it’s going to be everyone’s,” she said standing in the Performing Arts Center, looking at the massive, nine-panel wooden superstructure which the building trades students at the regional high school already have built to hold the mural. “I’m a vehicle for all this collaboration.”
A seasonal resident, she came last week from Boston to meet mural committee member and high school art education chairman Paul Brissette. Together they were mapping out the next stages: he would liaise with her design partner, architect Tom Larson, on selecting the right materiels. Next week, after aluminum panels have been attached to those frames, Ms. Grandin will come back to the Island to enjoy a full day of drawing with students at the school.
The design, titled Gateway to the Island, will be blown up to 45 feet by 10 feet, sketched first in black and white. “This design will really take the grand scale,” said Mr. Brissette, marveling at the relatively tiny diagrams from which they are working.
Art students at the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School and home-schooled students will be invited to join the drawing sessions next week and the painting in January. The teens will get to experience painting a huge exterior mural for posterity, from the comfort of the high school stage.
There they will be painting after school, painting all day and night on the weekends, painting with Ms. Grandin and with other working artists she is recruiting from on and off-Island.
A board member at Featherstone, Ms. Grandin is donating her half of the $1,000 stipend for winning the design contest to the arts center, and she hopes that staff and instructors there will get involved. “I want the kids to enjoy it, and for us to get to know the kids, and for some mentoring to happen,” the artist and longtime art teacher said.
Mr. Brissette describes it as “almost a visiting artist program.”
The two hope to condense much of the painting into that January week. “I hope we can really knock this out, not let it dribble on and on, for the sake of the paint consistency,” said Ms. Grandin.
In spring the entire thing will be taken apart, transported to Vineyard Haven, hung and readied for a big community unveiling.
Murals are in increasing demand across the country and internationally, turning otherwise dead space into space for art. “It will make a huge difference, to come off the ferry and have art there,” said Ms. Grandin. Knowing how people would view the mural drove her to make it didactic. “Each [part] has some history behind it, so as people look at it they will learn about the Island.”
Ms. Grandin and Mr. Larson set up their partnership to do a mural on canvas in a Boston church, which has yet to get underway. Their Tisbury design, along with five others, was displayed for public comment and voting by the selectmen. Other entrants — “who made some very beautiful, beautiful pieces,” Mr. Brissette said — have donated their works to be hung in town buildings.
Now the town has more fundraising to do. As Mr. Brissette explained: “Anne’s the art director, I’m the director, the committee is the producer.” And producers have to find the money, for everything from pizza for the painters, to the mural’s premiere party.
To contribute, make your tax-deductible check payable to Tisbury Mural Project, P.O. Box 1239, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568.