THE MISSION OF THE YARD: The Yard supports artists in both their creative processes and social instrumentality through paid research residency, public performance, and long-term educational and community engagement across all ages and diverse cultural populations of Martha’s Vineyard, and in broad application to New England and the nation.
In so doing, The Yard promotes creation, education, and community building through artistic practice—with a special emphasis on contemporary dance and related collaborative forms—in the defining rural/island environment of Martha’s Vineyard. The Yard acts, on behalf of its core commitments, as an active collaborator, co-commissioner, and touring partner with other leading institutions across a regional/national/international context to raise up a “culture of cultures” ecology that reflects—and benefits—the demographic life and times of the island of Martha’s Vineyard and the country.
* Founded in 1973 by the late choreographer and arts philanthropist Patricia Nanon, The Yard is the only non-profit dance organization of its kind on Martha’s Vineyard (MV), substantively connecting all six of the island's towns and diverse populace to the performing arts mainland. The Yard campus sits on 2.9 wooded acres in the farming/fishing town of Chilmark and incorporates 3 residential houses for artists and interns, a 100-seat barn theater and dance studio, an open-air public gathering space with furnishings, and on-site parking. The Yard is one of a very small handful of cultural organizations located in the rural up-island area of Martha’s Vineyard (comprised of three towns: West Tisbury, Chilmark, and Aquinnah), making it a vital hub for cultural and community activity.
* Each year, The Yard presents a robust 4-month YARD ARTS SEASON (late May to mid-September) including over 40 performances and garnering 4,000+ total performance attendees. The Yard Arts Season is comprised of roughly 11 weeks of Creation Residencies that culminate in ‘in-progress’ performances, overlaid by single-week Presentation Residencies of other artists mounting finished and touring work. Most recently, the 2018 YARD ARTS Season featured Canadian contemporary ice skating/dancing company Le Patin Libre, Princess Grace winner Rosie Herrera, celebrated NYC-based dance makers, Doug Elkins, Douglas Dunn, and David Parker, among many other internationally acclaimed artists, as well as several emerging choreographers to whom The Yard serves as a pivotal launching pad.
In October 2015, The Yard kicked off its newest initiative: THE WINTER YARD, an off-season performance and artist residency series geared towards the underserved year-round population of Martha’s Vineyard and designed to tie into the school year. The fourth WINTER YARD season in 2018 featured performances by the France-based dynamo breakdancing, acrobatic dancers of Compagnie Herve Koubi, all-female Mariachi band Flor de Toloache, Vermont puppeteers of Sandglass Theater, and hip-hop duo The Wondertwins.
The Yard has made significant strides in recent years to enhance its year-round reach, first and foremost through its wildly successful MAKING IT dance-making education program, supported by the Doris Duke, Barr, and Tower Foundations, as well as local donors. Formally launched in 2013, MAKING IT is now active in all Vineyard Public, Charter, and homeschooling institutions, as well as at the YMCA, senior centers, and an afterschool program for children of the island’s historic landed Wampanoag tribe. MAKING IT continues during the summer with five week-long sessions of KidsDoDance!, a program held at The Yard for kids ages 6-14 and directed by Deborah Damast of the NYU Steinhardt Dance Education Program. Other ongoing programmatic efforts to engage the year-round Vineyard population include: daily community classes and workshops (in dance, yoga, and other disciplines) open to all comers regardless of age and experience, free family matinees, moderated post-show talk-backs, pop-up performances in public spaces, and ‘DANCEHALL (Public Dancing Allowed!!!)’ community dances. One such DANCEHALL event—Pride, Not Prejudice—has become an annual touchstone for the LGBTQ constituency on the Vineyard and is remarkable for being the first such event on the island.
The Yard keeps ticket prices and fees low for all public events, in order to enable the ever-increasing participation by all sectors of the population. One program underscoring community-wide participation is BEHIND THE COUNTER, whereby individuals who literally work "behind a counter" at Vineyard stores, restaurants and the like may come to any Yard event for free. Over the years, The Yard has built a sustaining network of local, regional, national, and recently international partnerships. Working with neighboring community arts organizations on the Vineyard, The Yard helps to provide annual performance opportunities for the year-round population and local artists (at Featherstone Center for the Arts, Pathways Projects Institute, libraries, schools, spiritual centers and elsewhere).
Every year, The Yard organizes regional tours for artists in collaboration with its New England partners (Vermont Performance Lab, Williams College, Portland Ovations, Wesleyan University and many others). The Yard has co-commissioned multiple new works with fellow members of the National Performance Network and supported the national touring of numerous award-winning artists (MacArther Fellows Susan Marshall (2000) and Michelle Dorrance (2015), Guggenheim Fellows Ronald K. Brown (2000), Bridgman|Packer (2008), and David Parker (2013), among others). In 2015, at a key moment in US/Cuba relations, The Yard catalyzed a US tour for Cuba’s most lauded contemporary dance company, Malpaso Dance Company, in partnership with Jacob’s Pillow. With a growing presence in the international arts landscape, The Yard continues to play a defining role in the arts scene locally with a strong commitment to its local, regional, and national communities of art makers and partner organizations.
“As an artist who has travelled the world extensively and performed in some of the most prestigious venues in the world, I have to say that The Yard ranks up in the top of that list. World class talent, programming and staff. It should be marked on the map as a national treasure.” — Heshima Moja, Founder and musician of Souljourn Music Group and Music Director at Teatro Vida