It’s nowhere near Halloween, and yet 16 masks took shape in the Old Sculpin Gallery in Edgartown on Friday. Children’s art classes have been an integral part of this gallery since its inception in 1954. The Old Sculpin is a nonprofit organization maintained by Martha’s Vineyard Art Association Inc. The building, which originally housed the boat building shed for the late Manuel Swartz Roberts, was bought by the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust two years ago.

The gallery holds an array of art classes for children, teens and adults.

As campers streamed in the gallery’s worn wooden door on Friday morning, they were met by a friendly Jackie Sullivan, the children’s art instructor. This is her fourth summer working at the gallery. “The busiest summer we’ve had since I started working here,” she says.

The philosophy behind the children’s programs is for students to learn in an environment that is less traditional than a school setting and to introduce new art and new art forms.

A traditional setting it is not. The sessions are held in the cozy second floor of the rough-hewn building, which overlooks the Edgartown harbor. “The classes are a good way for the kids to get their feet wet with something they’ve never tried before,” Ms. Sullivan said.

“Jackie’s fantastic. I’m really impressed with the curriculum that she’s come up with. Every day we’re having to turn kids away because the classes are already full,” said Melissa Breese, manager of the gallery.

There is a different theme every week. Last week was world cultures; this week it was famous artists. Classes range from mask-making to cave-drawing. Asked about her favorite part of the workshop, Nina Sandfur, age nine, replied: “Well, Jackie’s a really good teacher.”

Wyatt Sandfur, age nine, Campbell Brown, age nine, and Isabella Giordano, age six, are deep into their mask-making. They say their favorite classes have included mask making, print-making, making flags, and origami.

On another day, people disembarking from the Pied Piper or the On-Time Chappy Ferry can often see troops of art students scampering around the harbor learning about perspective and color while painting a boat-filled scene.

Ms. Sullivan will attend the Rochester Institute of Technology in the fall to receive her master’s degree in art education.

“I just have a lot of fun doing it. I love this job. I’m going to graduate school so I can become a real art teacher,” she said.

So far this summer she has included two pirate days, and taught kids how to age paper and make maps. “It was so fun to see how creative they got when naming and describing each spot on their creations,” she says. A personal favorite class, however, is Jackson Pollock Day because she gets to “teach the kids that making a mess is sometimes allowed.”


Children’s art classes at Old Sculpin Gallery run from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Monday through Friday. For information call 508-627-4881.