Sunday, June 30, 2013

Vacationing In Provincetown: Culture, Entertainment & Community (Part 5)

As further immersement into the culture of Provincetown, we visited the Provincetown Art Association & Museum (PAAM), meeting with Executive Director Christine McCarthy, President Jim Bakker (of James R. Bakker Antiques) and PAAM Development Director Sheila McGuinness. Art is an integral part of Provincetown, which is home to the oldest, continuous art colony in the country. Back in 1899, Charles Webster Hawthorne, a famous artist, came to Provincetown and founded the Cape Cod School of Art (CCSA) at Land's End.

Though a number of artists came to Provincetown before 1899, Hawthorne was probably the first to offer instruction and his school attracted much interest. Other artists followed suit and by 1916, there were six art schools and about 600 artists and students spending summers there. During the last one hundred years, plenty of other art schools, artists and students came to Provincetown, and now there are over 60 art galleries in the town.

"The objects and purposes of this association shall be to promote and cultivate the practice and appreciation of all branches of the fine arts, to assemble and maintain in the town of Provincetown and environs a collection of works of art of merit, to hold exhibitions, and by forums, concerts and similar activities to promote education of the public in the arts and social intercourse between artists and laymen."
--Constitution and By-laws Provincetown Art Association & Museum

PAAM is a small art museum, with an eclectic assortment of art, including paintings, sculptures and other less categorizable pieces. They also have a few rooms where they conduct various art classes, continuing the tradition of Hawthorne. In addition, they hold a couple of art auctions each year.

I thought this tentacle sculpture outside of PAAM was fascinating, reminding me of Cthulhu or some other tentacled sea monster.

We also attended a cocktail reception at one of the art galleries, the Berta Walker Gallery This was an interesting visit as Berta was quite a character, as well as very knowledgeable about the history of artists in Provincetown. The artists she displays essentially all come from Provincetown and there is a wide diversity in styles and mediums. The fascinating piece above was done by Elspeth Halvorsen, who creates "box constructions." This one is called "The Whole World Is Watching" and deals with 9/11.

Another compelling sculpture.

"Perhaps it is the fantastic structure of the dunes, carved in intricate mouldings: some with smoothly rounded tops, others combed by unseen fingers, others running into spectral peaks, and still others with long, flat summits — weird sentinels, linked together by the most unstable and most resistless chains."
--Agnes EdwardsCape Cod: New and Old

My last visit to Provincetown was many years ago, when I was a teenager, and I still recall touring the dunes. I got to do so once again, with Art's Dune Tours, which has been family owned and operated since 1946. You have several different options, such as a one hour Daily Tour ($27) or two hour Sunset Tour ($43). Each vehicle holds 6-8 passengers, and the driver gives you an ongoing history and nature lesson as you drive through the dunes.

The dunes are not just miles of flat sand. There is plenty of varied vegetation as well as numerous hills and valleys. Who would have thought that you would even find cranberry patches in the dunes? Such beautiful scenery and I took many pictures.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the dunes are the dune shacks, primitive buildings, usually without electricity or running water. These shacks once were temporary residences for mariners, artists, writers, playwrights and others who wanted isolation and privacy. There are now around 19 dune shacks, though there once were many others. The government took control of them and destroyed many before they were convinced to maintain them for historical purposes.

A non-profit group now controls some of the shacks and rents them out, through a lottery system, and many artists vie for a spot though anyone can enter the lottery. They still generally lack electricity or running water.    

One afternoon we were supposed to check out the Tea Dance. Historically, a tea dance has its roots in France and England, and often was an early evening dance, often accompanied by tea and pastries. In the U.S., tea dances have become more casual, and in Provincetown, during the summer, they hold a daily Tea Dance at the Boatslip Resort. This is primarily an outside dance party and on the night we were supposed to go, it rained so very few people showed up for the party. On a normal night, this place would have been packed with people.

For the final scheduled event of the trip, we adjourned to the Crown & Anchor, a hotel, restaurant and entertainment complex. The restaurant, Central House at the Crown, provided us a good meal and then we went to a drag show at the Crown Cabaret and saw Dina Martina. I certainly didn't know what to expect, except that it would be a comedy. And it is somewhat hard to describe the show, a combination of jokes, songs, video and more. It was twisted, bizarre and extremely funny. The humor is going to appeal to most audiences and I would recommend that you check out another Dina show. You are sure to laugh plenty. Afterwards, we sat at the Piano Bar, sipping cocktails and enjoying our final evening in Provincetown.

It was a fun, enlightening and interesting time in Provincetown and I would like to return again in the near future to check out what I missed this trip. Put aside your preconceptions about Provincetown and check it out as a cool vacation destination, a place that caters to people of all types. Go for the food, the art, the history, the shopping, the beaches and more. Special thanks go to Anthony Fuccilllo and the rest of the staff at Provincetown Tourism Office for showing us the wonders of Provincetown.

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