Bernardston art workshop offers media for expression

  • Cynthia Fulton of Meadowedge Art supervises Daniel Yagodinski, 5, as he uses a stamp to make fabric art. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Meadowedge Art students run around to dry their fabric art. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Cynthia Fulton of Meadowedge Art supervises as students apply wax to dyed cloth before re-dying it to make Batik art. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz—Paul Franz

  • Cynthia Fulton of Meadowedge Art supervises as students hang their Batik art to dry. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Cynthia Fulton of Meadowedge Art supervises as students apply wax to dyed cloth before re-dying it to make Batik art. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, July 05, 2016

BERNARDSTON — Nestled on Fox Hill Road and surrounded by rolling green fields sits a yellow building where children learn to trust their visions, make creative decisions, accept others’ differences and produce art they can be proud of.

At Meadowedge Art, a nonprofit art workshop founded and directed by Cynthia Fulton, children from the ages of 3 to 13 can experiment with various artistic mediums year-round.

On June 20, Meadowedge kicked off its summer program. Each week, a close-knit group of students works from 1 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday to creatively express themselves through different mediums.

According to Fulton, the summer program includes tie-dying, stone carving, drawing and felting. Students can craft mosaics, clay tiles, batik paintings, dolls and clothes, papier mâché sea creatures that they use to create dioramas, and felt treasure pouches used to collect glass beads that Fulton hides around her property.

Though a different group of students arrives each week, Fulton said that many of the children stay involved in the workshops for years, and often, their brothers and sisters get involved, too. Since Fulton first started Meadowedge in 1984, she has even taught the children of her original students.

The program began for simple reasons.

“I had young kids of my own at the time so it seemed like a good business to have at home,” Fulton, 69, said. And of course, Fulton has always had a passion for art.

Additionally, Fulton said she felt Meadowedge could address a community need.

“I think there was a real need in the community for a different kind of art,” she said.

Fulton said she always provides high quality and often unusual materials for her students to work with, something that Meadowedge parents appreciate. Meadowedge offers a supportive environment where children can express their creativity and get in touch with parts of themselves, she said.

“Art, yes, is good,” Fulton said, “but art in the right environment is the best.”

“Cynthia is very supportive of each child,” said Erin Klett of Greenfield, whose son Russell, 8, and daughter Eleanor, 11, attend Meadowedge. “I think that my kids have gotten some confidence from that that has translated over to other parts of their lives for sure.”

Because each workshop has an average class size of eight students, Fulton said she experiences “a wonderful back and forth” with her students.

“You get to know each kid, you get to know what they’re interested in,” she said.

While it may be easy to find art activities to do with children online, Fulton strives to come up with all the activities on her own in order to best meet the needs of her students. During the winter program, which runs from October to May, Fulton said she often decides what the best activity for her kids will be on a given day based on how they are feeling and their energy levels.

“I just think that Cynthia is able to offer this magical experience that we haven’t been able to find anywhere else,” said Elizabeth Adler of Easthampton, whose daughter Ollie, 9, and son Nate, 6, attend Meadowedge. “To us, it’s worth the drive, even all the way from Easthampton.”

Oddly enough, Fulton said, most of her students are not from Bernardston. Families travel from Northfield, Gill, Leverett, New Salem, Shelburne Falls and elsewhere to bring their children to Meadowedge.

“It really is a countywide program,” Fulton said.

Over its lengthy history, Meadowedge has grown and developed. The program originally included simply drawing, painting and working with clay.

Meadowedge also took an extended hiatus while Fulton pursued an art degree at the University of Massachusetts and taught art at Eaglebrook School in Deerfield for 19 years.

But, eight years ago, Fulton was diagnosed with brain cancer and told she had a month to live. The diagnosis, she said, forced her to reexamine what was important in her life: Meadowedge.

“There’s nothing like that to wake you up and say ‘Hey, time to focus on what I love doing,’” Fulton said.

Since then, Fulton has made a full recovery. She continues to live her passion for art, while working with children every day.

“The kids feed you in ways that you aren’t even aware of,” she said.

Parents of children who attend Meadowedge in turn appreciate Fulton as a positive role model.

“Having a positive role model outside the home is always worthwhile,” said Michael Cahill of Northfield, whose two daughters attend Meadowedge. “If (your) children are inclined to be creative, I can’t imagine a better place for that to be nurtured.”

“Cynthia is a really gifted art teacher,” said Klett. “She just has a wonderful way with the children and is able to support them in making all kinds of art projects that they’re pleased with. Both my kids really treasure the things that they’ve made with her.”

Being a nonprofit, Fulton can also offer financial aid to families who have trouble affording the program. Each week of Meadowedge’s summer program costs $150.

The winter program, where the children are divided into age groups and attend one day each week for two hours, costs $500. The preschool program, held on Saturdays from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m., is charged on a sliding scale from $5 to $15 per session.

Now, adults can also get involved at Meadowedge. Starting in March, Fulton began hosting two-hour adult classes on a Thursday evening each month for $30 per session.

For more information about Meadowedge Art, visit: meadowedgeart.org or call Cynthia Fulton at 413-219-7807.