What does Flying have to do with Art?

The Ag HallMy husband, a pilot, said to me,”you need to learn how to fly”. I had been flying with him and my children for years. We had a Cessna 206, which was a 6 passenger air plane. He arranged for me to take flying lessons, which were going great, as long as the instructor was in the plane. I had a fear of flying solo. The idea of pointing the plane to the ground at 80 miles per hour petrified me. Quite a dilemma for a student pilot. I asked my mother,”what do you think?” She said,”you can do it”.

So the next day, after three good take off’s and landings, the instructor said, “I think your ready, but remember, when you take off without me in the plane, it’s going to lift off like a rocket”. I shook my head in agreement, but had no idea what that would feel like. “OK then” he said, “you’re good to go”. I headed down the runway, radio’d for permission to take off, and pushed the throttle forward. He was right. I felt like I was jettisoned into space. Katama Air Field shrank beneath me. I flew over to the Martha’s Vineyard Air Port, landed, then flew back to Katama.

The next week I did my first cross country solo to Westerly Rhode Island. Upon landing I handed my log book to the pilot in charge, he signed it, and I headed back to Martha’s Vineyard. When I landed at Katama I thought it odd that not only my Instructor and husband were waiting for me, but also many other pilots. I was unaware they were going to perform a long standing tradition. As they gathered around me when I left the cockpit I expected hand-shakes and maybe some hugs. Instead they grabbed the back of my shirt which was neatly tucked into my jeans. I couldn’t imagine what they were doing. Then the scissors came out, and they cut the shirt tail away. My shirt tail was hung on the wall of the Katama Airfield cafe with my name and the date of solo displayed under it.

Something was very different about me that afternoon and the whole next day. Flying alone like that teaches you to let go of your fears and face them. It was one of those moments that defines you as a person.

You might be asking, “What does all this have to do with Art?” I call it the domino effect. It’s about our journey, how we view ourselves, the lessons we learn, and the dreams we have.

It just happened to be 1995, the year the New Agricultural Hall was built. It seemed like such a logical place to have artists and craftsmen display their wares. One of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society board members was Jules Worthington, a very good friend of mine. He brought me to one of the meetings so I could ask if they would consider my new idea, and if this new festival could be on Labor Day weekend. A short while later I was given permission.

Having a great idea doesn’t guarantee success. I was unknown to almost all artists and getting Islanders to trust me enough to do a show, and pay in advance, wasn’t easy. It took months of phone calls and meetings. Then I realized I didn’t have enough money to pay the rent, so I applied to the Cultural Councils of Aquinnah, Oak Bluffs and Edgartown, and was granted seed money.

With everything in place, the first Vineyard Artisans Festival Labor Day Weekend Show debuted and was a shining success. On the evening of the last day, as the artists were all breaking down their booths, the artisans ran up to me and all at once said,”We are doing this again, right?”, and “sign me up next year Andrea”. I blindly agreed, my head still spinning from the last two days. Artists who had heard about it but didn’t book the show asked if they could now sign up. When I arrived home the news media was calling and I gave my first interviews over the phone.
The knowledge I had harvested without realizing how to use it was now serving me.

It’s been 17 years since that first show, and today, whether you are a tourist or an islander you can enjoy a unique experience when you visit the festivals. Nowhere else on Martha’s Vineyard can you meet the Island Artisan and view hand-made fine art and craft. It’s a very personal experience when you buy direct from the artist. It gives the customer the story behind the art.

The moral to this story:
Everyone experiences fear. Fear is like a door we don’t want to open, but once opened, fear escapes and disappears, and courage walks with us.