Truro’s Mark Adams Selected as Arts Foundation of Cape Cod’s 2023 Artist of the Year

Nonprofit will celebrate Adams’ impact as painter, cartographer, environmentalist, scientist, educator, writer, and changemaker

February 14, 2023 (Cape Cod, MA) – The Arts Foundation of Cape Cod (AFCC) has tapped Truro’s Mark Adams as its 2023 Artist of the Year. Launched last year, the award recognizes a Cape-based artist whose work shapes thought, inspires change, and creates a deeper sense of connection in the community. 

“Mark is the perfect choice for this recognition because he continuously demonstrates the impact art can have in connecting us to the world around us. And his work reminds us of our shared responsibility in protecting the natural environment, both for today and for future generations,” said AFCC Executive Director Julie Wake. “He embodies the ideals of the AFCC Artist of the Year, using his talent in a thoughtful manner to compel each of us to think deeper about who we are and ways we can preserve and protect this special place we call home.” 

Adams, who is represented by The Schoolhouse Gallery in Provincetown, expressed his gratitude for being selected by the AFCC for this honor. “I feel like I’ve been handed an opportunity to speak for a lot of other artists on the Cape,” he said. “The Arts Foundation has been amazing in fostering the careers of artists and recognizing a diverse range of artists, and I feel like I need to help further that goal. While I’m happy to talk about my work, I want to talk about it in the larger context about what art means and what art can do in a place like Cape Cod.” 

Adams is now the AFCC’s second Artist of the Year with ties to the Outer Cape. Last year, Jo Hay of Provincetown was selected for the inaugural award. 

As the AFCC Artist of the Year, Adams will create a piece of art that will be unveiled in mid-April and eventually be auctioned off at the AFCC’s Prelude to Summer gala at the Hyannisport Club on June 1st. The Schoolhouse Gallery will be hosting an open house on Friday, May 26th in which the public is invited to view Adams’s latest artwork, and learn more about the piece and his creative process. 

Originally from Chicago, Adams studied ecology, biology, landscape architecture, printmaking, and photography at the University of California, Berkeley. His work has straddled the line between science, art, and adventure with stints as a wildlife field biologist, forest firefighter, gymnastics coach, and scientific illustrator. 

He has lived in California, England, and Boston, moving to Martha’s Vineyard in 1987. “I first saw New England as a stopover to get back to the West Coast, but I remember in the late ‘80s taking a walk at a coastal pond as the sun was setting and getting a conviction in my mind that I had to live here,” he said. “The combination of the way the light hit the water and the ocean, I can’t even describe it, but it just penetrated me at the moment.”

Admittedly, Adams recalled he came here at a low point in his life where he was struggling personally and professionally. The Cape served as a refuge at a time when he needed it most. “If I were to describe a community where I would want to live, the elements would be of small-town life [like the Cape] where people know you, where there is mutual trust, and where you have the ability to leave the door unlocked,” he said.

“Just the way the trails lead to the ocean and wild places start at your own back door,” he continued. “This is a small town, yet it is culturally super rich, meaning it is super-endowed with culture in that every community has a coffee house, many communities have a film festival, and there is diversity in terms of the opportunity to have an identity as an artist. And you can identify with a community of artists here that I never saw in places I grew up.” 

In 1991, Adams came to the Outer Cape where he has lived since. A year later, he joined the National Park Service, where he worked as a geologist and cartographer for the Cape Cod National Seashore until he left in 2022. Last month, Adams was named as the Center for Coastal Studies first-ever Scientist/Artist-In-Residence. 

Working in ink, watercolor, acrylic, and oil on wood, unstretched canvas, and sketchbook pages, Adams’s art combines mapping, text, and painting to inspire viewers to explore, interact with, journal, and sketch from wherever they may be. During his own overseas travels to Burma, Thailand, Bhutan, and Morocco, Adams has filled pages upon pages with drawings, data, personal musings, and observations. 

The content of these journals, along with prints, paintings, photography, and installations were exhibited at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) in 2017 as part of a career retrospective titled “Expedition: Mark Adams.” The exhibit included an interactive map of Cape Cod and the Islands and its relation to the Gulf of Maine, laid out on the floor of the museum that patrons could walk on. 

Last fall, the museum honored Adams at its PAAM Party, presenting him with an Award for Individual Artistic Excellence. The accolades for the prolific artist continue this year with the AFCC’s tribute. 

Adams’s piece that will be unveiled in April and auctioned off in June will be a component of a larger concept that he is currently calling “A Drop in the Ocean.” He plans on making the more expansive artwork an interactive piece that the public will be able to “walk into,” he said. “It will be representative of both the vulnerability of the ocean and also the visceral experience of being part of a whole system of life and energy.” 

During his time here, Adams has taught at PAAM, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Provincetown School Academy Program, and Truro Center for the Arts at Castle Hill. Prior to the pandemic, he volunteered for several months at refugee camps in Greece, giving back to Afghanis, Iraqis, Africans, and Moroccans who were fleeing war, repression, and poverty in their countries. 

Learn more about the Unveiling on April 27th.

Learn more about AFCC’s Artist of the Year program. 


Photo of Mark by Ron Amato