What to Do
Nantucket is home to a thriving arts community that is unique in many ways to arts communities at other resort locations.
What is unique about Nantucket is the thorough integration of the arts community in island life as well as the strong presence of female artists, in keeping with island tradition, but unique among similar artistic enclaves.
The arts community of today can be traced to the Arts Colony of Nantucket that developed in the 1920s. While noted American artist Eastman Johnson lived on the island prior to the colony, there are two people who deserve most of the credit for its birth, post-impressionist landscape painter Frank Chase Swift and one of his early students, Florence Lang.
Chase first came to the island in 1920 and returned virtually every summer for the next 30 years to paint and to teach. His students, primarily women, were the heart and soul of the colony through the 1930s and 40s.
Lang's family owned a collection of scallop shanties and boat houses along commercial wharf and Washington Street, many moldering reminders of the whaling industry. She had the vision to see the potential of these as artist galleries, which provided the first home for early members of the colony. She was also instrumental in the founding of the Easy Street Gallery, the center of the colony through the end of the second world war.
Today there areas many as 275 practicing artists on the island, including the 190 who are members of the Art Association of Nantucket. After a difficult time in the 1980s, the arts community is again thriving on the island.
The proliferation of galleries throughout Nantucket Town offers visitors a unique opportunity to see and shop for art in a variety of disciplines and at variety of prices, ranging from a little as a few hundred dollars to as much as six figures.
Gallery-hopping on South Wharf is a popular summer activity.