Beginning next year, the Field Gallery will be under new management. Chris Morse and his wife, Sheila, owners of the Granary Gallery, will manage the 31-year-old gallery across the street from Alley's General Store in the heart of West Tisbury.
"The Field Gallery will remain the Field," said Eileen Maley, daughter in law of the late Tom Maley, a gallery founder. Certainly there will be changes, but the new managers are already known for professionalism in the West Tisbury art world.
The Field Gallery was established in 1970 by Tom Maley and others as a contemporary gallery for Island artists. It is perhaps the only gallery on the Island that operates in a building designed specifically to be a venue for the display of art. There are skylights overhead that allow daylight to come through. Under high ceilings and electrical lights, the artwork looks great against the off-white walls.
The gallery sits in a central area of the town's historic district, not far from Alley's General Store and the First Congregational Church. Over the years, the open meadow has been a reception area for artists and for political gatherings. The property and gallery are a community icon, especially beloved for Mr. Maley's white sculptures, which dance in the field outside.
Mr. Maley died a year ago in August, at the age of 89. For so many years he exhibited creative enthusiasm about art and artists that was more contemporary than traditional. Mr. Maley was known and loved not only for his creativity but for his lack of anything remotely stodgy - he lived out his belief that artists should never be boring and that making art should always be fun.
The gallery seemed to mirror the wishes of its founders: architect Bob Schwartz, Mr. Maley, Eleanor Coen and Max Kahn. Over the years the works displayed inside consistently demonstrated creative exuberance.
From the Field Gallery's vertical pine boards have hung works by many of the Island's top artists and a few from afar, including Alison Shaw, Jeanne Hewett, Marcia Ross, Scott Terry, Rez Williams and Jules Feiffer. Frequently, contemporary art that could find no other Island venue was displayed with pride at the Field Gallery. In recent years the gallery has been open daily from Mother's Day to Thanksgiving, and on weekends through Christmas.
While many exemplary managers have come and gone, Mrs. Maley has run the gallery for the last three years. She said she wanted to retire, and that talks began a few weeks ago about a successor.
Tom Maley's family wanted to see the gallery continue, she said. Of Mr. and Mrs. Morse, Mrs. Maley said: "We know the quality is there, and we know they will be a success."
Mr. Morse began working at the Granary Gallery in 1987 when it was owned and operated by Bruce Blackwell and Brandon Wight. In those days it was referred to as the Granary Gallery at the Red Barn Emporium. Mr. Morse worked for the two for nine years, then took over the business with his wife in 1996. The Morses have a five-month-old daughter, Katherine.
Mr. Morse said West Tisbury has long been an Island center for the arts. There are many places in town that offer art to the community and the Field Gallery is certainly a prime example. "These are pretty substantial forces," he said.
While it is too early to outline the changes that are coming, Mr. Morse said that Mr. Maley's artwork will continue to decorate the field and be sold inside. He said he is toying with the idea of alternating Sunday afternoon openings between the Granary and the Field next summer. He said, "I am not leaving the Granary." He said he will continue to dedicate most of his time to the Granary Gallery, but he noted: "It's a four-minute drive between galleries."
Tim Maley, Mrs. Maley's husband, will continue to make his father's sculptures next door.
Mr. Morse said he is thinking about bringing back Vineyard artists to the Field Gallery. "Many haven't been in that space for years," he said.
"We definitely want to improve on a good thing," he said.