Nantcuket Island

Sharon Lorenzo writes about Nantucket Island’s cultural organizations.

Entrance to Nantucket Harbor

In this time of confinement, many people find great joy in appreciating the gifts of artists and collectors who generously decide to share their treasures with the public. Such is the case on the small island of Nantucket, located 30 miles off the Cape Cod coast in Massachusetts. Three organizations have become the beneficiaries of some new art that brings life and meaning to this community.

The Dreamland Theater is a year-round organization devoted to the enrichment of the island culture with a mix of live performances, children’s theater programs, and streaming of artistic ballet and theater from around the globe. In this time of the virus, its gifted director, Joe Hale, arranged for a local drive- in movie theater where summer visitors can social distance in their own cars near the coast line.  Coming soon to the Dreamland is a generous commission from The Atlantic Foundation in honor of the passing of a local summer resident, Seward Johnson.

Seward Johnson Nantucket Island                                                                                  Seward and Cecelia Johnson

As the son of the founder of Johnson and Johnson Pharmaceutical Corporation, Seward moved from working in the family business to a full-time artistic career after his marriage to Cecelia Horton in 1964.  His career blossomed and his work is in public collections around the globe.

                                                                                      Fred Rogers, 1928-2003

Before his death on March 10, 2020 Seward was working on a full-size figure of Fred Rogers from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood fame, also a summer resident of Nantucket until he passed away in 2003.  In 2021, hopefully a reproduction of him by Seward will reappear at the Dreamland Theater for all to embrace.

Gordon Gund Nantucket IslandGordon and Llura Gund

Another summer resident of Nantucket is Gordon Gund, a businessman and philanthropist, who also developed an artistic career as a part-time hobby, having lost his sight to an inherited eye disease known as retinitis pigmentosa in 1970.  Growing up in Cleveland, he often took art classes at the Cleveland Art Museum on weekends with his siblings. After losing his sight, Gordon made a number of  small art works in both wood and clay. He later made larger pieces in full armatures for casting in bronze.  His love of nature made him often focus his subjects on wildlife.

Whale flukes off of Nantucket                                                                                  Whale Flukes in deep sea dive
                                                                        Flukes by Gordon Gund in bronze

As a fisherman of many sorts, his experience gave rise to his work on the flukes of a whale he helped rescue when it was stranded on a Nantucket beach.  Cast in full life size, a copy of this work has been donated by Gordon and his wife to the Nantucket Cottage Hospital and installed in their outdoor garden.

Freedom Peregrine Wings on Nantucket                                                   Freedom, Peregrine Falcon Wings in bronze by Gordon Gund
  Peregrine Falcon in flight on Nantucket                                                                                  Peregrine Falcon in flight

Similarly, he was familiar with the peregrine falcon, the fastest bird species on the planet as it dives and soars after prey at 200 miles per hour. Aptly named, “Freedom”, a ten-foot version of its wings is also in the Hospital Garden as a gift of Gordon and his wife Lulie, who passed away in March of 2020.

The Nantucket Historical Association is a non-profit entity that manages a large central museum in a restored candle factory where whale oil in the 18th and 19th century was converted to candles before the invention of electricity.  The NHA also maintains many other historic properties on island which include famous homes of whaling captains, an old working mill for grinding corn, and the oldest house structure which survives from 1686 .  To financially support all these entities, the NHA has formed a group of loyal philanthropists known as the Friends of the NHA whose annual gifts are managed by an acquisition committee.

1675 map of Nantucket                                                                   Arent Roggeveen, 1675 map of Nantucket

Its most recent purchases have been stellar and critical to the NHA collection and include a 17th century Dutch map of the island by Arent Roggeveen from 1675.  He was the manager of cartography for the Dutch East and West India Company.

William Trost Richards                                                   William Trost Richards, Nantucket Shore, oil on canvas, 1865

Additionally, the Friends were able to recently purchase a wonderful oil painting from Christie’s at auction from 1865 entitled “Nantucket Shore” by William Trost Richards (1833-1905).  The oil depicts a serene view of the island beaches and surf, a treasure now for all residents and visitors to see in the main NHA building.

These are just three of the more than one hundred non-profit groups active on Nantucket which bring so much life and vibrancy to this community. History and culture provide a diverse mix of leisure entertainment for residents and visitors of all ages to the island.