For over a century, Cape Cod and the Islands have been enclaves for artists of all mediums. Painters, photographers, writers, and sculptors have been drawn to the region for its famous creative community and the striking surroundings that provide endless inspiration. These invaluable assets have led to the establishment of numerous fine art galleries, museums, creative organizations, and businesses that provide residents and visitors with world-class art.
With so many venues throughout the Cape and Islands where one can purchase art, the amount of choices can be daunting. Executive Director of the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod, Kevin Howard, provides some insightful advice on how to make an informed decision when purchasing your next piece of art.
Howard notes that there are many reasons to purchase a piece of art; a number of different variables influence the decision-making process. Some people buy art for aesthetic reasons, others see art as an investment, and still others—particularly on Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket—feel a strong emotional connection to the region and want those feelings and memories captured in a work of art.
Creating art is perhaps the most subjective way people attempt to capture their emotions and experiences. This in turn allows everyone to interpret and enjoy any chosen piece and to value it accordingly. “One of the things about art on any level is that there is a certain amount of personal discretion and emotion that speaks to people as individuals when they view particular works of art,” says Howard. The abundance of area galleries with knowledgeable staff and owners can help potential buyers understand why—or why not—to purchase a particular painting, sculpture, print, or other work of art.
For both residents and visitors, purchasing art on Cape Cod and the Islands is often based on an emotional connection to the region. There are innumerable reasons so many people put down their roots here and why even more flock across the bridge every year. Those reasons often fill people with a desire to commemorate their happy Cape and Island memories. Paintings of the Cape Cod National Seashore, photos of Nantucket’s postcard downtown, and myriad other quintessential scenes have been captured by numerous artists here and can be seen in art galleries and cultural venues.
As with any major purchase, Howard notes that buyers should do careful research before selecting a piece of art. While the Internet and print publications are excellent resources to get headed in the right direction, nothing compares to actually standing in front of a piece. Gallery exhibits, art shows, and fairs are all simple ways to become immersed in the culture and to be surrounded by knowledgeable patrons, gallery owners, and aficionados. “For people just getting into the scene, it’s a great way to start to get a sense for art and to be exposed to different trends,” says Howard. “Part of the joy of the experience is the journey itself.”
Galleries in particular are excellent venues for getting a sense of an artist’s work. Cape Cod and the Islands are rich with gallery owners who are especially articulate when it comes to discussing the artists that they represent. “In terms of the quality of the galleries, there are a lot of talented artists here and a lot of exceptional galleries that offer great regional and local art,” says Howard.
Pricing is a part of the art world that is frequently discussed because of the numerous variables in determining each work’s value. There are ways to find out the relative value of a piece—pricing based on past work, market conditions, and comparable values—but good pricing is often subjective. In the end, a purchase may be entirely impulsive and the price may not be a major component of the decision-making process. “You might be getting a great deal and other times you might be paying too much,” says Howard. What’s important is that the work is valuable to the buyer.
Being associated with a local art association, such as the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Cape Cod Art Association, or the Arts Foundation can be as important for an artist’s exposure and reputation as their gallery representation. Both emerging and established artists benefit from such associations by being connected to the community with the opportunity to learn from their peers, be active in shows and galleries, and—for emerging artists especially—gather advice on how to make a career out of their passion.
Receiving an education in the arts is crucial for the development of young artists. Whether their education is formal—receiving a degree from an art school—or informal—learning under the tutelage of a professional—what matters is that, in addition to mastering their craft, the developing artist is being inspired and learning real-world skills they can apply in the art world.
One local program that is helping Cape Cod high school students get in touch with professional artists is the ArtWorks School-to-Career Art Internship Program, which is funded primarily though the Workforce Investment Board and coordinated through Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich. “Some of those connections end up having a profound effect on these students,” says Howard. “Just like teachers in any genre, there are always one or two mentors who have a profound, life-altering impact on their students.”
What began on Cape Cod as a small community of artists in Provincetown in the late 19th century has blossomed into a world famous destination for artists and art admirers alike. Each community on the Cape and Islands has a vibrant art community as well as cultural centers and organizations that cater to the arts, music, and theatre.
“I think what’s happened is that people have visited the Cape and Islands and they’ve seen the quality of the arts community and how vibrant it is and they want to come here and be creative themselves,” says Howard.