Andrea L. Rogers, founder
In 1986 if you were an artisan living on Martha’s Vineyard your options for selling your crafts or art were grim. You could give your wares to stores on consignment, but most times it would get man-handled, then handed back to you with a sad apology. If you were an artist and not lucky enough to have your own gallery, your options were again grim. It was off to the local gallery and wholesaling your individual painting, not a great way to earn a living selling your art. Fast forward to 1995, the year the New Agricultural Hall was built. I thought 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.
It’s been 20 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.