Women in Business
Woven deeply into the fabric of what makes Cape Cod so alluring are the creators, the artisans, and the dreamers.
Through their unique interpretation of how they perceive and experience the landscape, the environment and the lifeblood that surrounds all of us is where we are able to pause and consider a different perspective. Behind, and sometimes within, those artists are the people who understand how to present our arts as an invaluable business resource.
Imagining what the Cape would be like with only the bare amenities of lodging and dining for those visiting or living here, seems akin to a bad horror film. A community devoid of culture most certainly would be inhabited by a less than human life form. The arts are where we are able to confirm our love for our beaches, architecture, gardens, wildlife, and human relationships. It is through the arts that we achieve self-confirmation as well as an understanding of our place in the greater gathering of others.
Helen Addison, owner and founder of Addison Art Gallery in Orleans understands the arts, and more importantly understands artists. Arguably Addison is one of the most passionate and knowledgeable advocates for artists on the Cape. She first made a mark on Cape Cod winning over 80 regional and international awards for her advertising agency which managed marketing and public relations for such accounts as Cape Air, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Corcoran Jennison Companies and five banks on the Cape and Islands. With strong ties to the Provincetown Art Colony and the Cape Cod School of Art, 25 years ago she started to put that marketing expertise to work for the Addison Art Gallery, its artists and collectors.
When asked about Addison’s relationship with her artists, internationally collected oil painter Paul Schulenburg says, “Helen is attentive, hard working, diligent, focused, responsive, responsible.
“She works with each artist to develop a relationship with collectors, and to help recognize what collectors are responding to; not telling artists what kind of work to create, but to let them know what kind of work is getting the best responses from collectors.
“Running a gallery can be like running a three ring circus, and it helps to have a good ringmaster.”
Another artist represented by Addison, SaraJane Doberstein, credits Addison for her unique support, “Helen always stays connected no matter the time of year or distance of the artists and really encourages camaraderie. She always knows what is going on professionally and personally with the artists and is better able to connect art with collectors by being able to talk about what they’re up to.”
Through the years, the Addison Art Gallery has brought artists and art into towns with plein air events, demonstrations, talks, panel discussions and exhibitions in public spaces, including the Cape Cod Museum of Art, Highfield Hall, libraries and the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitors Center. One extremely popular endeavor is “After Hopper” which celebrates the artists of today who continue to pursue Hopper’s path in their own unique ways. Other events include “In Thoreau’s Views”, “Before the Masterpieces’, and “Outermost Inspirations”. The gallery continues to bring attention to the art being produced on Cape Cod today with these events that are nationally and locally acknowledged and is the only gallery in the region that has been sought out by Oil Painters of America, National Oil & Acrylic Painters’ Society, and American Women Artists to host their national exhibitions.
When asked to reflect on those that have inspired her, Addison mentions two highly respected artists who are now deceased. “Elizabeth Pratt and Joyce Johnson shared their enthusiasm, not just for their own work, but for the wonders created by so many living and working on Cape Cod. Perhaps best of all, as hard as we worked, we always found reasons to laugh.”
Addison’s decades of community involvement grew exponentially in the past year during the pandemic as the gallery promoted, and financially supported, dozens of groups ranging from community organizations like Cape Cod Children’s Place, Family Pantry of Cape Cod and Cape Wellness Collaborative, to cultural associations like Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, WOMR, and various libraries, to iconic organizations like Center for Coastal Studies, Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, Orleans Conservation Trust, Wild Care and others.
Addison confirms her commitment by saying, “Now in our 25th year, we know it is an honor to support so many artists and to serve this community. I give heartfelt thanks to our artists and our clients for giving us the opportunity to do so.”
Christine McCarthy, CEO of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) has been at the helm for 20 years. During her tenure, she has been responsible for a newly renovated space that includes a modern, expansive exhibition space that anchors the historic arts colony in the 21st century. Through the years, McCarthy says she has had to earn the credibility she has undoubtedly provided the organization, despite a solid career of working for art venues and museums for 30 years. “One of the biggest misconceptions I continually encounter is that people have not viewed the arts as a business,” McCarthy shares. “Oddly, this past year during the pandemic, people have come to realize how essential museums and nonprofits are, but also I think everyone was surprised (myself and my staff included), how quickly we are able to shift and re-align to meet the needs of what the public is looking for.”
McCarthy talks about how she had to move and change direction, and how much of what they offer as a cultural resource to the Cape community was a leap of faith that things would work.
“I’m generally a gut instinct kind of person,” she confirms. “I had to make decisions sometimes overnight to make sure our business didn’t fold. A lot of people assume we are a luxury charity; a non-essential unlike healthcare or food, and in some ways that is correct, but we learned during 2021 that health and wellness comes through the arts, and people cannot live without a creative outlet.” McCarthy came to this conclusion as she noticed an increase in second homeowners retreating to their Outer Cape homes during the pandemic. She says that this population was continually amazed at the level of off-season programming the museum offered. Programming that included art classes, workshops and programs for kids. “It was eye-opening, not only for the public, but for me and my staff as well, as we started to have conversations with a population we would have previously only sent communication that involved fundraising support. Now they were here and we all needed the arts,” McCarthy recalls.
McCarthy’s revelation that her discourse and relationship with the public, particularly the previously seasonal public, had taken on new meaning was an opportunity that she believes has deepened the community’s awareness and commitment to the organization.
“Nothing was easy in 2020,” McCarthy states, “but suddenly when we opened for an exhibit, and we weren’t able to offer the usual wine and cheese, people were now focused on every part of the exhibition. Maybe social distancing contributed too, because conversations weren’t close and intimate, so the attention was on the art. I wasn’t the only one to notice, countless people would come up to me and say they felt starved and seeing this art was like having a great meal.”
McCarthy sees the roles of a cultural organization, particularly one as iconic as PAAM, as playing a role that society sometimes does, and sometimes doesn’t, realize its needs. Case in point, as Cape residents retreat indoors during the colder months, sometimes a reason to venture out is all we need. McCarthy and her team, including one of PAAM’s member artists, launched a new scavenger hunt in Provincetown on March 1st, entitled ArtTrek, which involves 21 wine bottles that contain a prize certificate, that have been hidden around the town. Finders are posting their treasure, as well as their hunt, on the museum’s Instagram page. McCarthy says, “Everyday I get messages from people saying they have walked miles and miles all over town in search of the bottles. And I have had plenty of bribes, but I seriously have no idea where they are hidden.”
McCarthy credits ingenuity of the scavenger hunt to a collaboration between her board and her staff. “People can participate at their own pace and it is safe. The number one thing is to make things accessible, safe and most importantly fun,” she says. “People are looking to have fun again.”
Laura Reckford is also responsible for an arts organization, the Falmouth Art Center, and she knows that people want to experience creativity and fun as well. Reckford has navigated among businesses and individuals for decades as she wrote and edited for a variety of publications, including Cape Cod Life where she served as managing editor 26 years ago. In her capacity of interviewing wide swaths of people, Reckford has learned that everyone has an amazing story, and she feels that it is a special responsibility to properly share those stories. Reckford’s story is rooted in the understanding that everything that is negotiated and managed within the world of writing and publishing is its own sort of business. So when it came to take the mantel at Falmouth Art Center, she was uniquely prepared to manage the business of the organization all while fostering and continuing their story.
What started in 1965 as the Falmouth Artists Guild, an organization primarily focused on creating opportunities for members to exhibit their art, has become a robust, multi-disciplined cultural center that serves a critical role in the Upper Cape’s creative landscape. Reckford joined the organization almost three years ago, and immediately hit the ground running. “I have such respect for the history of this organization,” Reckford shares. “This organization was here a long time before I arrived and I expect it will continue long after I have left. It is rooted in the incredible artists that have always been at the core.”
Like so many others, Falmouth Art Center needed to re-imagine its possibilities when the world retreated in 2020. And like so many organizations that are fueled by creativity and imagination, it just took a bit of ingenuity to offer the valuable programming the community yearned for.
“Most of our teachers have offered their classes on Zoom and despite initially not being familiar with it, most have really mastered it and learned how to make their classes both interesting and personal,” Reckford states. Summer camp looked to be in danger of cancellation during the 2020 summer, but resourcefulness, a rented tent, a second donated tent, all added up to a program roster that kept kids busy and provided a break for parents who had struggled for months as they tried to stimulate their children’s imaginations while quarantining.
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