Once inside the Mary Heaton Vorse House at 466 Commercial Street, it’s easy to be transported back in time to Provincetown’s past. With authentic creaking floors, narrow doorways and steep staircases reminiscent of its former glory days, visitors are treated to an art exhibition that truly represents Provincetown’s rich artistic tradition.
Mary Heaton Vorse was a journalist and civil rights activist, living here from 1907 until her death at age 92 in 1966. During this period, she published numerous newspapers and magazines (such as The Nation!) while covering numerous strikes and campaigns. Furthermore, she patronized arts groups like Provincetown Players and Edna St Vincent Millay – as well as publishing a 1942 memoir Time and the Town: A Provincetown Chronicle which remains widely recognized as an authoritative source on Provincetown history.
Vorse’s house became the hub for her writing career and advocacy work on human rights, drawing in labor leftists, artists, intellectuals and literary luminaries (even Eugene O’Neill and Sinclair Lewis visited). Vorse was known to write with justice in mind and her role as first woman war reporter during both world wars speaks to her expansive view of being engaged with life and humanity.
Vorse was known for her politics and social activism; however, she also was an accomplished author whose books appealed to a broad middle-class audience. Her stories focused on domestic relationships that challenged traditional gender roles with stories of friendship between equals.
Vorse embraced her house’s limited resources in town to support local artists and longstanding arts organizations by sharing space and raising funds for them. Her vision for it was similar to New York’s Greenwich Village: serving as a gathering spot for artists, writers and intellectuals.
PAAM now owns and operates the house as an event space and gallery for local and visiting artists, providing gallery shows and gallery events with guest artists from both around town as well as from out of state. In its various rooms it hosts various programs including an outdoor film series each summer, culinary collaboration between guest chefs and local artists, artist residency program as well as curatorial conversations, performances and fundraisers. Their aim is to foster cooperation and community among arts organizations who often compete against one another for donor dollars – by creating one central venue, tension is eased and collaboration encouraged!