On Saturday morning at the Featherstone Center for the Arts, 12 eager painters prepared their supplies and set up easels. Two boys pretended to paint with dry brushes on their papers, scribbling in the air.

“This is the hardest part, getting all set up,” art instructor Lani Carney (Miss Lani) said. 

The youngsters, ages 3 to 10, were taking part in Miss Lani's Age of Innocence class which aims to foster imagination above all else. She enjoys teaching classes with a wide age range as younger children often inspire the older ones, she said.  

But this Saturday’s class featured a much older artist helping to spark the creative fire. Renowned Vineyard painter Allen Whiting had stopped by to visit and paint. He set up his easel with the same professional artist paper that the students were using and dabbed some green acrylic paint onto a brush.

Miss Lani explained to the class that they could use Mr. Whiting’s painting as an inspiration.

“I don’t know what that means,” one student said.

“That means you like what he’s doing,” Miss Lani said. “You put a little of Mister Allen and a little of you into your painting.”

This formula meant that no two paintings looked alike. There were flowers and sailboats, trees and abstractions, people and rivers. Blues, greens, reds, yellows and browns splashed across the paper, sometimes in bold strokes, sometimes in careful dots. The young artists occasionally stopped by Mr. Whiting’s easel to peer at his canvas—and he theirs—but mostly concentrated on their own projects. 

Mr. Whiting first came to an Age of Innocence class earlier this year.

“At their age, their imaginations are just going,” he said. “The same thing happened last time—[the paintings] were all totally different.”

When a work was deemed ‘complete’ by the artist—not ‘done,’ Miss Lani explained, because there is always another day for art—the group clustered around the painting. Everybody went at their own pace. Some finished up relatively quickly, while two other students returned to their paintings time and again.

Mr. Whiting deemed the paintings wonderful.

“They’re all so different and all so you,” he told the group. “[That’s] something that will be with you for a long time.”