Falling for Creative Cape Cod
Early in the morning of Thursday, Oct. 11, 1849, Henry David Thoreau set off on one of his iconic beach walks exploring Cape Cod. He had uncovered a secret that modern day explorers have only recently discovered — that fall on Cape Cod is perhaps the sweetest of all seasons. Warm days, cool nights, less traffic and the bogs and salt marshes begin showing their true colors. But did you know that fall is also the ideal time to explore Creative Cape Cod?
The Cape is home to 45 Historic Districts listed on the National Register including the Old Kings Highway Regional Historic District, the country’s largest as it winds along Route 6A. The Cape also boasts 16 local Historic Districts, six Cultural Districts, and the Cape Cod Museum Trail which connects over 70 cultural sites across the region.
Yarmouth’s Cultural Center of Cape Cod is one trail treasure, hosting over 1,500 year-round events, exhibitions, and educational opportunities, as well as Gourmet Take-Out by a resident chef. The expansive campus is housed in the historic brick Bass River Savings Bank building, and truly represents “All the Arts for All of Us” through its extensive offerings. While in town, you’ll also want to stop at the Ann Sullivan Art Gallery to get your beach and boating fix through original paintings and prints. And for nature lovers, Brewster’s Cape Cod Museum of Natural History offers stunning hiking trails, 400 acres of diverse conservation land, a bountiful wildflower garden and programming for all ages.
A Vibrant Canvas of Creative Hot Spots
Fall is the perfect time to discover the hundreds of galleries, studios, and workshops that are housed in quaint shingled cottages, historic buildings, and artful living spaces. But even more special are the creative sparks that unite when you meet the artists and owners in person without the bustle of summer crowds.
For one, Chatham is fueled by generations of creatives. Odell Studios and Gallery is literally home base for Carol and Tom Odell, a creative husband and wife duo who met 45 years ago at a Chatham arts fair. Living in an historic Greek Revival home and gallery on Main Street, the magic really happens in the barn studio where Carol works in oils, encaustic and monotypes with a contemporary flair while Tom designs jewelry creations, hollowware, utensils and sculpture using precious metals, gems and Japanese alloys. Main Street is home to another family linked by their creative passions. Heather Struna, an artist, engraver and owner of Struna Galleries for the past 20 years also represents the work of her father, Timothy Jon Struna, an accomplished painter and printmaker, and her mother Barbara Eppich Struna, a historical fiction novelist. Their original paintings, prints, books and copper plate drypoint engravings illustrate how truly talented this family is.
Celebrating 60 years in Chatham, Munson Gallery originally opened in New Haven, Connecticut in 1860 and is one of America’s oldest art galleries. Run by Sally Munson, a fourth-generation art dealer and arts consultant, the gallery showcases world class fine artists at the Gibson Sotheby’s Real Estate office on Main Street, seasonal satellite locations and online. To finish your tour of Main Street, The Hopkins Gallery sits in a renovated apple barn where Pat Hopkins’ paintings, prints and cards uniquely capture the beauty of Cape Cod.
Onward to Orleans where one can literally step into history at the Addison Art Gallery, where the pine flooring and solid beams hail from Boston’s famed Faneuil Hall. Known for exhibitions like “After Hopper” and “In Thoreau’s Views,” this gallery is an international destination with a huge local philanthropic heart. Community connections also run strong at Gallery 31 on Main where artist/owner Sherry Rhyno is founding chairperson of the Orleans Cultural District. Representing pastel, oil, watercolor, and alcohol ink artists, this standout shop is known for its personalized service, art demonstrations and workshops. Nearby, Eastwind Studio and Gallery is a long-standing local Arts Cooperative providing fine art and hand-crafted goods that appeal to every budget and aesthetic. Tree’s Place Gallery is one of the nation’s leading art galleries with a focus on representational painting including special exhibits on wooded landscapes, seascapes, still life and more by a wide range of contemporary artists. Recently opened, Kevin Rita of Garvey Rita Art & Antiques is following in his family’s footsteps with a focus on honoring quality artists who have lived and worked in this area. Be sure to watch for this fall’s Vernon Smith exhibit, an iconic Cape Cod arts champion and talented craftsman who served in the 1930’s as the area’s WPA supervisor while in Orleans.
Up the road a piece in Eastham across from the National Seashore Visitors Center entrance, the Eastham Painters Guild is celebrating 40 years at the 1869 Schoolhouse Museum. Their year-round shows and exhibits, include this year’s special exhibit, “400 Years of Eastham.” It includes work by Robin Wessman, a Cape native who started the first Barnstable High School Art Club while a student, and is now a well-known oil painter capturing the shadows and light of Cape Cod with a keen eye for detail; watch for his new online still life series.
Off of Route 6 in South Dennis is Miller White Fine Arts, an innovative contemporary fine art gallery with an international reputation that actively supports the local community. Founder Susan Reid Danton named the gallery as an aesthetic nod to her great aunt Dorothy Canning Miller, the first collections curator at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, and Susan’s mother, Edith Canning White.
Heading to Harwich? At Odile Fine Art you’ll meet artist/owner/fashion designer Ruth Odile, a colorist who is often accompanied by her English Labrador “Castle,” creating large oil paintings depicting stunning skies over marshes, rivers, and oceans. While in Harwich Port, stop by the Cross Rip Gallery that was named by artist/owner Georgene Riedl for the legendary local water rips and artful currents. Family-owned for 50 years, the 1830s gallery often hosts Art in the Garden events set in her family’s perennial gardens.
If traveling Route 6A, you’ll find the stunning marsh and twisting tidal river views from Ed Chesnovich’s Scorton Creek Studio in East Sandwich are beautifully captured in the bold colors and brushstrokes of his paintings. Once the studio of an accomplished decoy carver, the ‘bird barn’ is now Ed’s studio and will house his upcoming solo museum exhibit.
Over in Cotuit, across the street from the Cahoon Museum of American Art, Chapman Art Gallery owner Tim Bates believes that art links people, places and things together in a beautiful way, and his exhibits spotlight artists who make those connections come to life. Chapman’s roster of artists keeps Bates busy with a robust schedule of openings exhibits and receptions, and in the era of COVID, an expansive outdoor space allows for social distancing. A jaunt to Cataumet should always include a visit to musician/music industry veteran Bobby Baker’s 1800s beautiful art barn and the dramatic display of his signature monochromatic coastal photographs and prints.
Falmouth has a long history of fostering creative souls, including “America the Beautiful” author Katherine Lee Bates. Today, people like Julia O’Malley-Keyes, the resident artist and owner of O’Malley-Keyes Fine Art/Cape Cod Art Gallery, who is known for her “zero-pressure” mantra and award-winning gallery filled with oil paintings of Cape Cod vistas, sailing regattas, and coastal gardens, keep the tradition alive. For a different vibe, West Falmouth is the home to several artists and small galleries like The Village Gallery in West Falmouth where husband-wife artist team of Mindy and Ronnie Reasonover make art fun and accessible with bold and vibrant paintings including Mindy’s custom buoy paintings, Ronnie’s maritime woodcarvings, mural commissions and inspiring classes taught by both. Another artist in his own right, Paul Miskovsky of Miskovsky Landscaping has been making Cape Cod landscapes lush and innovative for decades. Miskovsky and the Reasonovers are good friends so it is not uncommon to find their art contributing to Miskovsky’s palette. At Mimi’s Art Gallery and Studio, everyone can enjoy locally Cape-inspired oil paintings ranging from wall-sized work to Mimi’s Minis (original small work priced under $50).
The accessibility of individual virtual galleries offer opportunities for individual artists to shine, and since it is an online experience, the hours are up to the viewer. Aleta Rossi Steward, specializing in flowers and bird paintings, has delighted ornithologists and amateur art lovers alike while creating in a cozy studio that includes a nod to her father, a world-renowned violin maker. Faith Lund, a talented artist and faculty curator of Westfield State University’s Arno Maris Gallery, finds colorful inspiration for her striking Cape Cod Estuary series from the sights and sounds of Mashpee’s South Cape Beach. Jo Ann Ritter, a more traditional plein-air painter, is driven by a love of color and mixing representational art with impressionistic styles. And Joseph Cibula, renowned for his photo realistic oil renderings of decoys, will have you wondering if it really is a painting at all!
Beyond the Frame
Throughout the Cape, the art of framing is more than just mats and mounts. Ron Lindhom and his family of museum-quality conservators run Cape Cod Picture Framing and Restoration in Dennis, where paintings, papers and even murals are saved from the ravishes of age, natural disasters, fire or flood. When visiting, be sure to ask about the 400+ damaged paintings that arrived in a semi-trailer from New York City! Another 50 year-old family-owned business lies in the heart of Hyannis at the Marjon Print and Frame Shop where custom framing, restoration services and a gallery brimming with local art make it a one-stop-shop destination.
Mashpee makes it easy to love matting, mounting, and more. At the newly opened Great Water Gallery in Mashpee Commons, David Riina and Abe Pieciak combine their love of fishing with marine and nature-inspired art and gifts as well as providing full onsite print production services and handcrafting reclaimed wood frames. Across the street, Amy Rice and her knowledgeable team provide more than just an artful eye at Woodruff’s Art Center, with monthly gallery exhibits, creative gifts by local artists and art supplies for both professionals and amateurs. If you are looking for choice, creativity, and collaborative consultation, don’t miss J. Miller Pictureframer & Gallery in Deer Crossing and John’s 4,000 framing samples.
Gifts from the Sea
Cape Cod’s beaches aren’t the only place to discover real gems. Sandy Moran’s Sailor’s Valentine Studio offers the quintessential gift from the sea—intricate handcrafted shell heirlooms preserved in fine wooden cases that harken back to the seafaring days of the 1800s create unique and timeless treasures.
Looking for art you can wear? Housed in Chatham’s oldest building, Steve and Barb, a husband-wife team of professional goldsmiths at Forest Beach Designer-Goldsmiths, offer exquisite jewelry art as well as an unparalleled selection of 500+ gold and silver charms. For distinctive keepsakes inspired by the Cape’s natural beauty, Ross Coppelman/Goldsmith of East Dennis has been hand-crafting fine jewelry for over 50 years using high karat gold, platinum, sterling silver, and precious gems. And in Hyannis, Cape Cod Jewelers is well-known for its nautical and Cape Cod collections, as well as its extensive vintage and estate jewelry inventory.
Drawn to metal sculpture and jewelry making as a young man, Bernard Kelly of Cape Cod Buckle not only has mentored some of the Cape’s most recognized silver and goldsmiths, but is also credited with launching the New England custom-crafted art buckle business after an outing with his shell fisherman friends; 50 years later it still remains his passion. Another Cape Codder, Karin Galvin launched Unique Boutique 25 years ago which now has locations in Mashpee, Naples and Delray Beach. Representing the handcrafted work of artisans and jewelry designers nationwide, other designer accessories include fine leather bags and silk shawls.
With a name like Yankee Ingenuity, this 49-year-old Chatham second-generation owned shop doesn’t disappoint with 4,000+ unique, fun and functional treasures that are just waiting to be discovered. Not to be outdone, Orlean’s Oceana offers over 5,000 unique gifts, locally handcrafted and personally curated. From the music, scents, and the building’s aesthetics to the artistry of their signature gift wrap, everyone will enjoy the art of shopping here.
After visiting these places, visitors realize that home is where the art is. Just a short jaunt to the historic whaling capital of New Bedford, the Drawing Room is a haven for artful living and inspiration. Owner, visionary, and architect Anthi Frangiadis has created a unique destination shop with New England artist-designed home accessories of all types, design and architectural services, and special workshops working with local wineries and other boutique businesses. For art you can eat off, don’t miss West Barnstable Tables, where beautiful hand-crafted furniture made from reclaimed and new wood is showcased in two 1880s antique cranberry sorting barns. For more unique woodwork, continue on to Barnstable Village where Petty Folk Art and Carving specializes in hand-carved quarterboards, house numbers, and commercial signs.
Brewster and Chatham also bring it home starting with Marsha Malone’s Nautique, where she offers relaxed home furnishings with a coastal flair as well as inspired design services sought by clients across the nation. Offering beautiful collectibles for over three decades, Chatham Pottery’s hand-made and hand-fired stoneware is elegant, durable, and the definition of usable art. While 30-year Chatham Sign Shop owner Bob Lacey’s favorite sign is across the street, where the Wayside Inn’s carved lantern sign seems to light up with the setting sun, his clients also love the technological advances where they can see custom work on their own building before it is even made.
If you have room to explore more, these are two must-sees. Six generations of furniture business expertise at Paine’s Patio of Cape Cod in Pocasset still brings a breath of fresh air to the art of outdoor coastal casual living. Another iconic family-run business is Eldred’s Auction House in Dennis, one of the oldest and largest in New England. Outside under its landmark green striped tent, inside the historic barn, or online for the virtual experience, it has an international reputation for holding many auction records, including the world-record price for a piece of scrimshaw — $456,000.
The Art of Food
Finally, Creative Cape Cod isn’t limited just to galleries, studios, and shops; the culinary arts are also thriving. Don’t miss Encore Bistro and Bar, Sesuit Harbor Café’s sister restaurant, which sits in the heart of the Dennis Art Campus. Chef/co-owner Tyler LaChance provides a tasteful, locally inspired menu in his scratch-made kitchen, providing year-round patio and tavern options. At the Chart Room, which sits on a converted barge on Cataumet’s Red Brook Harbor, fresh seafood combines with breathtaking sunsets for a special waterside dining experience. In nearby Falmouth, the Chapoquoit Grill (or “Chappy” as locals refer to it) offers the friendliness of a neighborhood gathering spot and a diverse menu that will satisfy any crowd. Want to add a Greek twist to your travels? Estia, with locations in Falmouth and Mashpee Commons, cooks up mouthwatering seafood, vegetarian, and classic Greek plates. Or venture around the corner to Trevi Café and Wine Bar in Mashpee Commons where fresh market pairings set the mood for memorable dining alongside Mashpee’s own “Trevi Fountain.”
As Thoreau famously wrote during one of his historic fall visits to Cape Cod in the 1890s, “The time must come when this coast (Cape Cod) will be a place of resort for those New-Englanders who really wish to visit the sea-side.” Today, the off-season beauty of Creative Cape Cod only adds to that allure.
Sue D Sullivan, lover of all things art, was formerly the ArtWeek Lead Champion.
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