‘The 100 Languages of Children’

Featherstone's show highlights the diversity and artistry of Island youth.


“The 100 Languages of Children” teems with the creativity of Garden Gate Child Development

Center students and alumni, as well as youth from Featherstone’s Children’s Art Program, the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, M.V. Community Services, the Wampanoag Tribe, and the homeschool community.

The show at Featherstone Center is a glorious celebration of Garden Gate’s 25th anniversary.

The school, situated on Featherstone’s campus, is founded on a creative approach to learning. Its classrooms are designed as studio spaces where students use traditional and unexpected art materials to explore, create, and learn. Garden Gate embraces an arts-based approach to early education that nurtures creativity, problem-solving, and social competence.

Drawings, photographs, sculptures, ceramics, jewelry, and textiles adorn the light-filled Francine Kelly Gallery, honoring the creativity of Island youth. The diversity of the 135 pieces reflect the many-faceted “languages” Vineyard youth use to express themselves.

Two collaborative works grace the entryway. To the right is an immensely endearing, expressively colored baby cow, which the students saw daily in the field adjacent to their classroom. The tenderness between mother and calf melted everyone’s hearts and became a welcome grace during the pandemic. The children painted it with artist and Garden Gate alum Jack Yuen, and the work has come to symbolize the school, serving as a testament to the power of arts and nature to soothe and inspire.

To the left is “Neighborhood,” an impressive watercolor inspired by Romare Bearden’s “The

Block.” Dawn Warner, co-director at the preschool, explains that one of the teachers had seen Bearden’s collage in New York, which, in true Garden Gate fashion, spawned a project where students created a life-size cardboard bakery, bathroom, museum, and library, as well as this piece, which shifts in scale and perspective. “We work in our interests and hope to inspire the  kids with the larger pieces of art in the world,” Warner explains.

A museum trip prompted a grouping of renderings of ships in all shapes and sizes. Students visited the M.V. Museum to learn about what life was like going out to sea during the whaling era. Learning about shipwrecks in a more modern era led to studying the Titanic. Some of the imaginative works that spun out from the topic are truly intricate white and brown pen drawings on black paper of giant ships, including John Frank Fiorito’s “The Floating Hotel,” which could be a Steamship Authority ferry on steroids.

A grouping of mixed-media works done on the easels reflects the young 3- and 4-year-old artists’ keen vision. “Each started as a painting on the easel, which are always open,” says Garden Gate co-director Leigh Ann Yuen. “They then added a second layer with tempera paint sticks; the third was oil pastels. It was the first time we worked with these kids to title their work, and they’re my favorite part.” Arlo McCarty’s “Rainbow Princess” and “We Eat Candy” by Emmett Piper-Roche are just two of the intriguing set. “That was a really interesting process for them to think of a title,” Yuen says.

There are also engaging titles among the delightful panels of individual interpretations of flowers, including Anastasia Ledden’s “Magical Beauty” and Dorian Markovic’s aptly named “Famous Dorian’s Flower.”

Featherstone’s art students shine as well. Reagan Ready’s “Mystical Maple” reaches toward the heavens with the spirit of angels simmering between a recognizable image and abstraction. Orion Thibodeau’s acrylic dabs of paint in “The Meadow of Color” swim across the canvas like lightning bugs. Ellis Flynn’s deftly controlled spray of pigments reflects a keen eye and finesse of technique.

Other schools are represented, too. “Matisse Fish Bowl,” by Kennedy Garrison from Edgartown, captures the French modern artist’s bold use of black outline and intense color to create distinct imagery. While nodding to Matisse’s famous painting of the same subject, Garrison has made it wholly unique.

“Pink Flower” by Abigail Buckley from the Oak Bluffs School has the impact of 1960s Pop Art, as the single, spiraling purple blossom pushes against the boundaries of the frame that can barely contain its organic energy.

Austin Awad, from the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School, animates the crowing avian in “Rooster” through skillfully applied fields of color and robust outlining.

Among the many impressive Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School artworks is Brody Royal’s “Fish in Net.” The slim ceramic fish are artfully caught in a bronze wire net hanging between two wooden dowels. The creatures cannot move up, down, or sideways, suspending them in time and place.

Caleb Dubin’s “Moon Glow,” “50/50,” and “Orbit” show an astounding versatility of creative talent in the choice of materials, glazing techniques, and forms. Tessa Schultz makes us smile with the crisp, large-format photograph “Vacation-Over.” A single arm, hand outstretched, grasping for help or at least attention, sticks straight up from the sand on the otherwise completely abandoned beach.

“Summer Waves,” by Hollis Oliver from Vineyard Montessori School, is a stunning close-up in which each swooping brushstroke conveys the power of the ocean in all its glory. 

The exhibition’s title, “The 100 Languages of Children,” comes from a poem by Loris Malaguzzi, describing how children communicate and make sense of the world. The first stanza speaks to them having a hundred languages, thoughts, ways of thinking, playing, and speaking. The second beautifully reflects the wealth visible in the gallery:


Always a hundred

ways of listening

of marveling, of loving

a hundred joys

for singing and understanding

a hundred worlds

to discover

a hundred worlds

to invent

a hundred worlds

to dream.


“When the children walk in and see their work hung in the gallery, they just swell,” Warner shares. “They see themselves as artists — people who are part of their community and have value. They feel on very even footing with folks on this campus. We don’t want that lifelong love of art to fade. We want them to have this start that keeps them going in the arts.”


“The 100 Languages of Children: Celebrating Creativity and Community” is on view through June 16 at Featherstone Center for the Arts. Open daily, 12 to 4 pm.