Sense of Wonder celebrates art students

Hardy Eville makes a wooden boat while Nat and Pam Benjamin look on. — Photo by Lynn Christoffers

Energetic juveniles smiled their way through the activities at last Sunday’s Sense of Wonder Art Show, a culminating celebration and benefit for their semester of art classes. The proud students were displaying the artwork that they had created at their after-school art classes.

In its 22nd year, Sense of Wonder offers art classes in the fall, winter, and spring, and a summer camp that runs from July 2 to August 17.

It is run in the studio of founder and director Pam Benjamin at 23 Grove Avenue, Vineyard Haven. The studio is stocked with every art supply imaginable, a budding artist’s paradise. The vast array of art displayed at the art show was a testament to the range of creations that these supplies allow. Papier-mâché animals live alongside watercolors and acrylics, crafted dioramas sit aside tables covered in clay pots.

Each week the class focuses on a different project, but students have the freedom to follow their muse. “We give them an opportunity to choose their own topic,” Ms. Benjamin said. “In school everything is so defined, and we want them to use their own creative imagination and be original.”

The only restrictions in place are intended to foster creativity: The children cannot depict weapons or brands in their art. The students have as much assistance or independence as they like, often electing to explore on their own.

“We give them a space that they can use. Students who are less inclined to do art on their own get involved because of how fun it is,” said assistant art teacher Celeste Bailey. “Students get involved with whatever it is that the group is doing and don’t feel judged by what they produce.”

Lily Morris, a Massachusetts College of Art graduate with a degree in fine arts, also worked as an assistant art teacher.

The art show on June 3 served as a benefit and as a celebration, bringing the students back together in a host of activities. Students were excited to have a chance to sell their work. Half the proceeds from sales gong to UNICEF. There were two lambs, “C” and one-month old “Maggie” brought by Clarissa Allen of the Allen Farm in Chilmark. Exceedingly social ducks, brought by Greta Gannon, splashed about in a kiddie pool. There were desserts aplenty and eight pizzas donated by Edgartown Pizza drew donations for a variety of charities.

Boat builder Nat Benjamin, Pam Benjamin’s husband, cut out small wooden hulls with holes drilled for dowel masts. He stayed and lent professional assistance to students who cut out sails and fashioned their own mini vessels. Magician and sculptor Steve Lohman made his rounds, astounding many with an array of tricks.

Anthony Esposito, of Rick Bausman’s Drum Workshop, led students in a Brazilian Samba rhythm. “Drumming is great for coordination. Rhythm gives kids a way to go through life,” Mr. Esposito said. “Kids always respond to drumming. It’s something they don’t get to do every day so it’s special. Instruments talk back to you in such a real way, you don’t get that dialogue from TV or other media.”

Though the art classes are over for the year, space at the summer camp is still available. The camp mirrors the after-school program’s goals of imbuing kids with creativity and a connectedness to nature and to their community.

“Working with kids is a complete pleasure,” said Ms. Benjamin. “I love their enthusiasm, their minds, and watching them get excited about their projects and ideas.”

To register for the Sense of Wonder Summer Camp visit or call 508-693-3142.