Harvest Gallery Wine Bar
Cape Cod Art / Art Annual 2019 / Art & Entertainment, Food & Dining, People & Businesses, Recreation & Activities
Writer: Allyson Plessner / Photographer: Teagan Anne
A Work of Art
Harvest Gallery Wine Bar in Dennis is an oasis for the creative spirit, bringing together food, drink, art and entertainment in a way that is both mindful and astoundingly original: a true work of art
There is perhaps no better embodiment of Sam Feinstein’s poignant philosophy than Harvest Gallery Wine Bar. A student of Feinstein, Michael Pearson has created perhaps his finest masterpiece within the walls of a tiny art gallery in his hometown of Dennis. For the lover of art, food, drink, music and conversation, Harvest is a sanctuary—one that exudes as much love and careful consideration as it does talent and raw passion.
For Pearson, Harvest is about creating a space where people feel comfortable and connected. “We want guests to have a good time, meet people and, above all, experience craftsmanship—from craft coffee to paintings to food, wine, beer and cocktails. Somebody put a lot of time and effort into making that.” A wall of photos of loved ones who have passed hangs behind the bar, reminding guests that Harvest is far more than an average restaurant. It’s a community.
The vision for Harvest came from Pearson’s early days as an artist and a family man. “I met the girl of my dreams and we moved to Oregon,” he explains. “There were a lot of galleries, a lot of wine bars, and this harmonious crowd that would bounce between the two.” Pearson was moved to find a way to meld his many passions into one unique space, and lucky for Cape Codders, he decided to create that space in the town where he grew up: Dennis. “We all survive the winters together, and thrive in the summers. There’s that collective appreciation for the area, and it really builds a cooperative spirit,” says Pearson. “And the talent on the Cape is just amazing.”
On the spirit of creativity, Sam Feinstein once said that paintings “are conceived to project their own expression, to radiate a specific presence… They are optical structures composed to touch the human spirit, to turn a rectangle into an evocation.” A true student of his, Pearson says that he likes to fill the walls of the gallery with “active art”—art that pushes out and catches the eye. “I feel like the spirit of art should really jump out at you and have this presence,” he says. “I’m always trying to find art that keeps you interested for weeks and months and years after you’ve first seen it.”
It’s fitting that many of the art pieces throughout Harvest belong to Pearson’s past teachers—including Sam Feinstein and his high school art teacher, Robert Lavery—his friends, his many students, and of course himself. Almost like a mosaic of all the people and moments in time that have shaped Pearson’s own creativity, together the pieces are an active, ever-evolving representation of Pearson’s spirit and of the spirit of Harvest, vivacious and alive, just as Pearson believes art should be. “I love the idea that when you walk in here, the artwork’s placed in such a way that each piece talks to each other,” says Pearson.
In his own artistic career, Pearson is intrigued by nature, but not simply capturing nature as we know and see it through a lens every day. Instead, he wants to capture the elements, the life within nature that makes it so fascinating and exciting. “Waves, wind, leaves, trees—all of that interacting is a source that I pull from, whether I’m painting directly from nature or even just crafting an abstraction,” he says. “I like to ask myself, ‘If I were to capture nature ‘s process on a flat surface, how would I do it?’” By luck or fate, Harvest is located right next to the Cape Cod Museum of Art, and Pearson has seized the opportunity to teach a painting class there.
“I can look back now and really appreciate those years when it was just me in my studio,” says Pearson about how his work is evolving. “Now that my children and my business aren’t so young, I have this hunger to get back to that.” Pearson recently turned a painting of Jimi Hendrix that he did in college into a print, almost as a reminder and a representation of the energy he had in his early days of painting, something that Pearson looks forward to harnessing again.
Creativity is spirituality looking for a form. It is a quest of the human spirit to find somehow a way of flowing
with the universal pulse that runs through all things…The organization of a work of art should be such that
it ties you to a sense of the eternal, ongoing rhythmic, pulsing process that is life itself.” – Sam Feinstein
As an artist who values art that affects, that moves and exudes a lively spirit, it should come as no surprise that Pearson often finds himself inspired by music. The logo and name of his bar is, after all, a nod to the great Neil Young. “I knew that this bar was going to be a cooperative experience, so I didn’t want to name it after myself,” he says. “The name Harvest intrigued me because it relates to the local movement, and by definition “to gather in” seemed like what I wanted to do. It felt like it matched the brand I wanted to create, and on top of that the logo for the Neil Young album by the same name also had the right feel.” The serendipitous combination of a homage to natural, local food and a nod to live music that is captured in the word “Harvest” was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Pearson recreated the Neil Young album logo himself, carefully creating the perfect representation for his brand as he does with every aspect of his business. “I love Neil Young because he always does what he feels like he needs to do as an artist. I couldn’t help myself,” says Pearson with a laugh.
“All the clichés are true,” says Pearson. “We work with incredible people, and I get to be like the creative director. It’s amazing to see things born out of ideas in a room.” Pearson credits his general manager, Johnny Martinez, with much of the recent success and growth of Harvest. “Johnny’s been instrumental,” he says.
A restaurant industry pro by trade, Martinez’s passion is cocktails, and he’s created a menu for Harvest that is centered on fresh ingredients, incredible spirits and, above all, mindful originality—something that fits well with the concept of Harvest. “The new cocktail menu is a creative menu for the creative people who come here,” he says. “One of the things that I learned early on is that the menu that works best is one that’s made for the guests.”
The philosophy that Harvest has adopted with their whole program is one of sustainability and engagement. “As a small place, it’s imperative for us to refine our niche. The people that come here are really interested in and engaged with what we’re serving,” explains Pearson. “It’s a story, and that’s what we want to support. Guest come in and hear a story about the art, the musician, the wine, or where the oysters come from. That’s key for us.”
“The Cape environment inspires what I make because of the people who are the ones drinking the cocktails,” adds Martinez, whose favorite cocktail on the menu is “The After Party”—an inventive twist on an Old Fashioned. “People from all walks of life come in here on any given day, and my job is to hear their stories and to learn from them always.”
Martinez, like Pearson, finds himself inspired by music. From an inventive kitchen staff to spirited bartenders, Harvest cultivates imagination and that carries over into the nightlife. On any given night, it’s not unlikely to see former and current staff members on the docket for entertainment. Former Harvest bartender Molly Parmenter, for example, and her band, the Molly Parmenter Trio, can often be found at the front of the house, bringing the dynamic, artistic nature of Harvest full circle with a hauntingly beautiful acoustic sound. “If I were to paint Harvest, I’d definitely have to do it with the paintings on the wall crooked,” jokes Pearson. “I always find myself straightening them the morning after a lively show.”
“One of the great things about Harvest is that every single individual on the staff has a creative spirit,” says Martinez. “The development in the cocktail menu, the food menu, the wine list, the entertainment schedule doesn’t just evolve from myself or Michael, it’s the entire staff.”
“At Harvest, I’m surrounded by things that inspire—not just the people but also the artwork. This environment in itself is inspiring,” says Martinez in a perfect summation of all that makes this place special.
For Pearson, as for his mentor Sam Feinstein, art is something tangible, something lively and eye-catching, and something that makes you feel because it captures the very essence and incredible, diverse color of life itself. Harvest is in many ways a work of art itself, embodying that spirit, connecting people with its inventive nature and, above all, with its relatability. There is perhaps no better celebration of art than that—a place that makes you feel not only welcome but inspired, not only accepted but understood. As Pearson puts it, “I might be the guy that owns the place, but all of these creative people that live on the Cape are the ones who really make the place.”
Hungry for more? Check out our Art on the Plate installment about Harvest Gallery Wine Bar HERE!