NEWS & UPDATES
It is with the utmost excitement, pride, and gratitude that we announce the next chapter of the MVFF's story.
The Martha's Vineyard Film Festival (MVFF) has come to an agreement with the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society (MVAS) to purchase 9.75 acres adjacent to its fairgrounds. The acreage was once owned by the Martha’s Vineyard Museum, then was sold to the MVAS in 2011.
The MVFF plans to build a year-round gathering space for education, film, music, theater, storytelling, workshops, and community discussion. Its current plan is to create a flexible arts space with an open layout that will allow for different configurations.
The project has been years in the making and is fueled by what the organization felt was a growing community need for a year-round gathering space. “When I was growing up here, my friends gathered at the Wintertide. It was that rare place that teenagers and their parents could all go to. You’d listen to music, perform for each other, or just hang out. I feel like the Island needs a place like that again,” said MVFF Artistic Director Brian Ditchfield.
“Having grown up in West Tisbury, I feel that this is a dream to be able to give back to the community that raised me,” said Hilary Dreyer, Managing Director of the MVFF. “I think of the Ag Hall as the heart of the Island. I spent countless Saturdays at horse shows there while growing up—my eighth grade graduation, weddings, celebrations of life, and, of course, the fair every year. I am honored and delighted to become part of this legacy for generations to come.”
The Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival, now in its 19th year, programs movies and community events throughout the summer, educational programs in the winter, and its annual film festival in March. “People think of us as the film festival but we are much more than movies. I know that our staff believes that people spend way too much time on their screens, and we feel a growing need to gather people to discuss the issues of our time. In our barn the wood stove will be burning in the winter, and the doors open in the summer. You can drop in and have a meeting with a friend, or sit quietly in our community space,” said Thomas Bena, Founder and Executive Director of the MVFF.
The MVFF plans for the barn include afterschool programs, workshops, and a summer camp. Its current in-school classes, afterschool programs, and summer workshops teach children filmmaking, personal storytelling, and digital literacy. These programs served over 1,000 kids last year. “We want to create the next generation of storytellers and truth seekers. Our educational programs are growing, as are the Ag Society’s, and so it seems like the perfect opportunity to collaborate with our new neighbors,” said Brian Ditchfield.
I grew up in West Tisbury and I can’t think of a better place for this,” said Ollie Becker, Director of MVFF Productions. “Over the past year, we’ve been able to make videos for clients like the Martha’s Vineyard Museum and Island Housing Trust, to help them share their stories with the community, and our new location will allow us to continue building this synergy between local nonprofits.”
Both the MVFF and MVAS see the prospect of an ongoing partnership by offering joint workshops in a more intimate year-round setting. In that spirit, they have already begun to envision storytelling events and interactive lessons to pass down traditions and stories vital to the Island’s history. This collaboration will strengthen both organizations’ ability to fulfill their missions.
In an effort to secure a lasting partnership between the organizations, the MVAS retains the rights to operate the existing solar array on the property and collect the income generated from selling the electricity. It also retains lifetime use of the area designated as campgrounds for vendors at the Agricultural Fair.
The planning and building process will take time. The MVFF, MVAS, and its neighbor, the Polly Hill Arboretum, have formed a working group to ensure a positive outcome for each organization. The MVFF is also seeking input from other neighbors, public officials, arts organizations, and the community at large, to ensure an open and inclusive process.