A Cape Codder as President

June 21, 2017 5:00 am0 commentsViews: 52
A 1960 campaign poster

A 1960 campaign poster

A Celebration of the John F. Kennedy Centennial at PAAM

by Steve Desroches

When John F. Kennedy won the presidential election of 1960 he did so registered at his Irving Avenue address in the village of Hyannis Port, home to the famed Kennedy Compound.  And despite being born in Brookline, Kennedy was on Cape Cod on election night, November 8, 1960, waiting for the results that would ultimately send him to the White House.  He became the first, and to date only, Cape Codder to occupy the Oval Office. Kennedy loved Cape Cod. It’s where he decided to run for president and it would be a place of solace and contemplation during his political life. He once said, “I always come back to the Cape and walk the beach when I have a tough decision to make. The Cape is the one place I can think and be alone.”

The Kennedys and Cape Cod have become almost synonymous to the world ever since the days of Camelot.  And the Cape takes much pride in that affiliation with one of the most famous and beloved presidents. But there is a bit of historical irony to the affection Cape Codders feel toward Kennedy because, while he won the Electoral College and his home state of Massachusetts, he lost the popular vote in Barnstable County, which supported Richard Nixon by over 60 percent. But feelings and opinions change, and now Cape Cod joins in the national celebration of the 100th commemoration of Kennedy’s birth. And here on the Outer Cape the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM) takes part in the event with a special exhibition titled JFK 100: A Centennial Exhibition featuring art and artifacts relating to the 35th President of the United States.

“Two years ago, John Allen, Executive Director of the JFK Hyannis Museum, approached me about collaborating on their centennial as they were hoping to get Cape wide exposure,” says PAAM executive director Chris McCarthy. “We were happy to do this, as we have never partnered with them before, and this type of exhibition will draw new audiences to PAAM and Provincetown.”


A poem by a young Caroline Kennedy.

The overall JFK 100 is orchestrated by the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, with the separate entity in Hyannis taking a leadership role here on Cape Cod.  PAAM worked in partnership with both the JFK Museum in Hyannis and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston to take works on loan, most notably an Andy Warhol portrait of Ted Kennedy and a lithograph by Jamie Wyeth of John F. Kennedy on his sailboat the Victura.  The Warhol seriograph was done in 1980, when Ted Kennedy was running for president himself as part of the Artists for Kennedy project, which featured works by over 20 of the country’s most prominent artists. Artworks were used as collateral for campaign loans, and were also given in return for individual contributions. When Senator Ted Kennedy and his mother Rose asked artist Jamie Wyeth to create a poster to mark the opening of the John F. Kennedy Library in 1979, they suggested he pay a visit to Cape Cod to view the sailboat Victura, a 25-foot sloop purchased by the Kennedy family in 1932. Sailing the waters off Cape Cod was an integral part of the Kennedy family’s lives and President Kennedy  once said in 1962, “We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it we are going back from whence we came.”

Also part of the exhibit is a portrait of John F. Kennedy, Jr. by Shelley Thayer Layton, photographs of the Kennedy family, a poem written by Caroline Kennedy, Kennedy campaign posters, and ephemera from Robert Luddington, the interior designer of the Kennedy home.  The ability to house such items at PAAM would not have been possible prior to the east end institutions extensive renovations over a decade ago, making it a state-of-the-art museum and allowing Provincetown to participate in this global event.


President with his brother Attorney General Robert Kennedy.

“Because we are accredited by the American Alliance of Museums and operate at best practice, we were able to secure these important works and artifacts,” says McCarthy. “This is a great opportunity for both organizations to partner and pool our constituents about the rich history of the Kennedys and Cape Cod.”

JFK 100: A Centennial Exhibition is at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum (PAAM), 460 Commercial St. now through September 4. A special opening reception is planned for Friday, July 7 at 8 p.m. For more information call 508.487. 1750 or visit paam.org. For more information on John F. Kennedy Hyannis Museum visit jfkhyannismuseum.org and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum’s Centennial Celebration visit jfkcentennial.org.