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  • Writer's pictureRoland Ramos

Follow the Light to the Provincetown Art Scene

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

This page is an artist resource page for the City of Provincetown, MA. Directly below you will find:

View the Documentary in its entirety!

This documentary on the Provincetown Art Scene is the latest in the series of localized documentaries exploring art scenes.

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Provincetown Artist Resource Map

The below resource map has been set up to provide artists and travelers with preferred destinations that will showcase the local art scene while assisting them in navigating it.

A Brief Intro to PTown....

First, this place is amazing! It is fascinating to imagine the first arrivals to the area, hauling in troves of cod fish. It has left an indelible impression on the fabric of the town. It remains small, historic, and protected by the sea. Once word of this lovely location spread far, it became host to the oldest art colony in the Americas. Everyone was fawning about the light. Its splendor that can be easy to miss if consumed by the islands pulsing nightlife.

30 Seconds on the Founding of Provincetown

The town at the end of the Cape is truly a destination. It about three miles wide, and just a few blocks wide, yet Provincetown is both a party town and a place to find respite. In both cases, it is up to you the visitor to make it completely yours.

This is exactly what happened in 1620 when the first European settlers arrived and signed the Mayflower compact in the Provincetown harbor. A number of years earlier, the explorer Bartholomew Gosnold had come through the area and caught a huge bounty of Cod Fish. The name Cape Cod has been attributed to the area for centuries ever since.

Contemporary Provincetown is Bustling and Beautiful!

For local openings and events, it's best to Ptown Events or PMag are good resources to use while planning your trip. We would love to hear your feedback on this map in the blog section comments below.

The bottom line is that Ptown (as it is better known locally) is a fantastic location for showing art. The town is filled with both peace and parties, and the movement between East and West Commercial St. is quite fluid and constant. If you can get here, great, if you can show your work here, even better. If you can simply arrive and appreciate all the galleries and artists in the town, you are already a winner.

Everything Starts on Commercial Street......

Most days begin on Commercial Street, where shopping and being seen in one of their many outdoor eateries are customary practices. It also is the main street to find most galleries in Provincetown. the main parking area lies in the middle of the island. So depending on which direction you head, you will inevitably end up in a gallery or a party zone. Our immediate goal was to explore the oldest part of the city, which was quite close to city center. Making a right on Commercial, we immediately came upon Sarah Jessica Fine Arts.

Hal Gold of Sarah Jessica Fine Art

Hal Gold came to Ptown for the first time on a working vacation from New York. Soon he was working in Provincetown in the summer, Florida in the winter and just never made it back to the big city! Over 30 seasons later, Provincetown remains his home. Sarah Jessica Fine Art is at 342 Commercial St.

Joe Adams of Woodman/Shimko Gallery

The Woodman/Shimko Gallery we visited was located at 346 Commercial street. The gallery has shifted venues a few times over the years in order to capitalize on the shifting social dynamics on the island. In this instance, galleries, no longer have top specifically reside on the East end of Commercial street, where they have routinely resided for decades. Woodman/Shimko has been a recognizable Provincetown space for the last several years. Here we speak with a co-owner Joe Adams about what it takes to make it as a Provincetown gallery and when tourist season actually begins.

Hilda Neily & The History of the Cape School of Art

Provincetown considers itself the oldest continuously operational art colony in the United States. That lineage continues to this day, decidedly helmed by artist and local fixture, Hilda Neily. She runs the Cape School of Art. The OG, Cape Cod School of Art was founded in 1899 by Charles Hawthorne.

Hawthorne had cut his artistic teeth as the assistant to William Merrit Chase, yes, that WMC would later go on to found the Parsons School of Design. Charles Hawthorne died in 1933, and his assistant Henry Hensche began the Cape School of Art. In 1974 Hilda became a student to Hensche, thus beginning a 15 year journey through the legendary light of Provincetown. The Early 2000s welcomed a reboot of the school, officially, with Neily as a prime fixture.

East Commercial Arts District in Provincetown & Oils by the Se

This is it! This is the historical gallery district on the East end of Commercial Street. This is the highest concentration of galleries on the cape. These idyllic streets create a sense of nostalgia. One starts to feel the allure of Provincetown. The houses start to look more inviting. The watery views put you in a dream-like state, no one knows that better than Shirl Roccapriore, Owner of Oils by the Sea, who has spent the last 6 years in the East end. Unfortunately, since the recording of this project, the gallery has closed. Another unfortunate victim to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Provincetown Wrap Up

If you're coming for the day, plan ahead, and prepare to stay the night. A full day here lapses into the evening rather quickly, so make some time to get a front row seat to the light.

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