hello Anthony!

best art classes njInstructor Anthony Castellano brings a wonderful mix of art history knowledge, teaching expertise, and enthusiasm to his classes at The Messy Artist. His love of art is infectious and inspirational to the young students, and he keeps them laughing while they are learning.  Introducing cartooning classes to the curriculum has been a popular addition for older elementary and middle school students. Here’s a chance to get to know more about Anthony in this interview.

What are the first art experiences you remember as a child?

My first experiences in art actually started at my own kitchen table. At a very young age, I could be found drawing or coloring whatever I was inspired in at the time, whether it be animals or a favorite cartoon. When I was in Kindergarten, I won a Halloween coloring contest. That motivated me to continue art as a child. Eventually, I would go on to participate in the talented art program in elementary school. By the time I was in high school, I knew I wanted to make art my career. In recent years, I have become an art teacher working in a variety of schools with nearly all grade levels.

Young Anthony drawing at his kitchen table with his Mom
Young Anthony drawing at his kitchen table with his Mom

What is your background in art?

I graduated with a B.A. in Art and Education from Caldwell University in 2010. There, I was enrolled in a variety of courses such as painting, drawing, sculpture, computer graphics, and art history. One of my favorite classes was a museology course, which focused on the operation and management of museums and galleries. My experiences in art didn’t stop there! Also in college, I was the president of the Caldwell Art Club and exhibited my work in several town art shows and on campus. Throughout my educational career, I worked as a set designer and stage manager for many musical productions, which included Once Upon a Pedistal and Bye Bye Birdie. While teaching, I became art club advisor for “Young @ Art” to a new generation of artists. I am now an active member of Art Educators of New Jersey.

At a gallery exhibit with his artwork
At a gallery exhibit with his artwork

How long have you worked at the Messy Artist? What classes do you teach?

I have been part of the Messy Artist family for 3 years now! It was like yesterday, coming to Messy as the newest addition in 2012 when we moved to East Hanover. In the beginning, I began assisting at birthday parties and quickly worked my way into teaching our studio classes. I started helping with Storybook Art and Art Foundations 101 classes. I then taught Cartooning for a year, which was a very enjoyable experience. This past season, I taught a variety of classes, which included a section of Art Foundations Intensive, Chagalls, Monets, and even a Picasso class! You can also find me managing our birthday parties on the weekend, at many adult events during the year, or around our studio working on our lifesize Artist Harvest sculptures.

What are some of your favorite projects or topics to teach?

My favorite type of art will always be two-dimensional. Drawing or painting are two of my favorite concentrations. I have a big interest in art history and enjoy incorporating art movements or famous works into my lessons. Abstract and Non figurative art from the 1900’s make for great open-ended projects with our students. Artists like Picasso, Kandinsky, Matisse, and Malevich are unique and kid friendly. They have inspired me, and I find that they inspire our students as well with their vibrant colors and fun shapes. In my opinion, any lesson involving analogous colors or the use of blending techniques really drives a lesson home. The kids love it when I sing “let it blend” or when I say “color in one direction, and not the band!”fine art classes for kids morris county The Messy Artist art studio for kids

What sort of art do you do on your own time?

Though I am very much inspired by abstract art, I always find myself creating representational art on my own time. It’s a very strange phenomenon! In recent years, I have created many colored pencil portraits of people or animals. I’m not the traditional landscape or still life type of guy. When I paint, I really enjoy using oil or acrylic, and when I draw, I can’t resist my Prismacolor pencils. In terms of subject matter, animals are still at the forefront, especially for my cartoons. One of my most recent paintings is called “A Flourishing Twist,” which features a combination of snakes and my favorite flower, the tiger lily. The piece is inventive, and borders 1930’s surrealism. I like the idea of fantasy meeting reality for my future work, and can’t wait to see where my creative juices take me.

What advice do you have for kids who say they are not good artists?

When a child says, “I’m not a good artist,” I reassure them that they are. I say that they have just developed their own style, but don’t know it yet. More often than not, I see students trying to be like the masses and create art like someone else, as opposed to being original. I always suggest to my students that they should be different. Sometimes it may be the medium that causes students to get frustrated. It is important to realize that we will not be the best at everything and that’s okay too! Some students may be stronger with 2D art as opposed to 3D art or more familiar with one subject matter than another. Sticking with what works is important as a foundation to good art! I tell my students that it shouldn’t stop them from trying something new. We learn by getting out of our comfort zone every now and then. Focusing on the process instead of the end product may be difficult, but I tell my students to continue and keep trying. I also say to the students that Art stands for “Always Respect (yourself) and Try. We are our own work of art!Anthony with a student at Messy Artist new jersey art classes for kids art class for toddlers in nj

What advice do you have for parents to help them to encourage their children in art?

My advice to parents looking to get their children involved in art is to make the first step. Sign up for a trial and take class at the Messy Artist. We want our children to have fun and discover art through the process, and still make beautiful art. It is important to immerse a child in art at a very young age. So many things can be learned from playing and experimenting with different materials in new and exciting ways. Social skills, communication, and fine motor development are all incorporated in the making of art. As a child, I was very fortunate to have been surrounded by family that encouraged me to use my skills and talents. Likewise, I recommend that parents do the same for their children. It is important for guardians to devote art-making time together. Take a trip to a museum! It will allow a child to become inspired and have an authentic real life art experience. Enter a child’s work in a contest. Save the work made in school, and display it. That shows a child that they’re not only important, but reinforces that they are an artist!art class for children new jersey

Do you have a favorite food?

Eating is an art, and yes, I can eat! My favorite foods will always be tasty and colorful. Any eating experience that speaks to the senses makes my tummy smile! I love to cook and bake on my free time and I pay close attention to the presentation of my food. Sushi, especially maki rolls, have so much texture, and eating them is like a performance art piece. For my sweet tooth, ice cream is not only flavorful, but colorful, and the design made by a soft serve swirl looks great on a hot summer day! I guess one could say I turn my eating habits into a masterpiece.

How about hobbies?

When I’m not “arting,” I’m either singing or listening to music. Being involved in the performing arts has also been a hobby. In college, I was part of the choir and musical theater workshops. I’m a baritone by nature. My messy artist coworkers know me as the “human radio” who is always breaking out into random song. I enjoy collecting and playing music for my friends and family too. They know me as DJ Tony C. Currently, my ipod has 8000 songs and counting; I see no signs of slowing down. Other hobbies of mine include working out at the gym, adventuring to new places to eat, or traveling.

Favorite museum/gallery/online place to look at art?

My favorite museum to visit is the Museum of Modern Art. Seeing Pop Art from Oldenberg or Warhol in person is always exciting! I think that the best exhibit I ever saw was at the Guggenheim in 2010 for the Wassily Kandinsky exhibit. Coincidentally, the show occurred at the same time I was completing my senior thesis on how Kandinsky “made music” through the elements of art in his work. Taking a random trip through the Chelsea galleries in New York has kept me in tune with the contemporary artists of today. Though I love art, I am equally inspired by the historical and scientific nature of things from animals, to plants, geology, and the planets. The Smithsonian Museum will always be number one destination for a little history or science.

Favorite place you have been or would like to go?

Italy! Greece! Spain! France! If there is any place I’d like to go and visit, that one place would be somewhere in Europe. I’d really love to tour as many European countries as possible and immerse myself in the art, food, and atmosphere of each. When the time comes, I’d love to see places like the Parthenon, the Sistine Chapel, or the Eiffel Tower. I know it sounds cliché, but Europe is where many of the master painters made their mark! Here at home, there are still many states I’d like to visit too, which include Western coast. Hawaii looks like it will be in near future! No matter where I go on my artistic journey, I will always make my traveling experiences part of my art.Anthony Castellano the messy artist

hello Victoria!

This week we have another post in our “Meet the Staff” series, with Victoria Plummer. You’ve seen her photos on our Facebook pages, read her blog posts here, and perhaps gotten an email created by her. As our Marketing Associate, she does all that and more to help spread the word about The Messy Artist. She’s been part of The Messy Artist Staff for over 6 years.

victoria plummer the messy artistWhat are the first art experiences you remember as a child?

My Dad was always doing some kind of art when I was growing up: pen and ink when I was young, and blacksmithing later. I always liked to draw and paint when I was a kid.

What is your background in art?

My background is in filmmaking: I got my undergrad and graduate degrees from Temple University in Philadelphia. I made a bunch of student films and worked as an editor before starting a family.

How long have you worked at the Messy Artist?

I started working at The Messy Artist as an assistant teacher in 2009. After a while I became a head teacher, and transitioned over to marketing associate in April 2012. I enjoy coming around to different classes each week to take photos. It’s always fun to see what projects kids are up to and capture their energy.

the messy artist art studio for kids best art class camp and party north nj childrens art classes new jersey art classes for kids NJDonna originally asked me if I was interested in teaching because I had been taking classes with my daughters at The Messy Artist for a few years. We live in the same neighborhood, and she knew both my kids went to the Millburn Co-op, where the parents spend a lot of time in the classroom and are used to being around a lot of kids. I enjoy teaching art and love to see kids experiencing the power of creativity.

What sort of art do you do on your own time?

I started printmaking about 10 years ago through classes at the Visual Art Center in Summit. There was a class I used to take on Thursdays nights which got me really enamored with it. I eventually started going to the open printmaking studio on Fridays and did that for a few years. I’ve been working too much to do much printmaking recently, but am looking forward to getting back to it. You can see my works on my website, victoriaplummer.com. Some of my photographic work is also on there; I’m self-taught but learned a lot through cinematography classes while in school that applies.

Printmaking is definitely one of my favorite things to teach when I am teaching art to kids.

What advice do you have for kids who say they are not good artists?

I always try to emphasize the uniqueness of each person’s creation: they are the only person in the whole world who can make the piece of art that they just made. That is something special! Anyone can learn to be good with enough practice; they should celebrate what they can do and their own personal style.

What advice do you have for parents to help them to encourage their children in art?

Just having art supplies around that kids can get to easily is a wonderful encouragement.

Do you have a favorite food?

I have a terrible sweet tooth, so pretty much any candy, baked good, or ice cream would be a favorite food.

Favorite museum/gallery/online place to look at art?

I think MOMa is my favorite museum. I love living so close to NYC so that it is easy to get in and see often. But I really enjoy seeing art anywhere, especially when I travel. And of course, I love to see all the wonderful artwork created by the students at The Messy Artist!

hello studio 356!

studio-356-logoWe are thrilled to announce the addition of Studio 356 to The Messy Artist studios. This expansion will allow us to offer a special program of fine art classes for older children and adults through Studio 356, while continuing our commitment to early childhood art education in The Messy Artist.Untitled-1-1024x525The Messy Artist was created by Donna Bernstein, an early childhood educator. She conceived of a place like The Messy Artist in 1999 after having searched for toddler classes that would introduce her son Corey (4), to the joys of creative art play. She didn’t find such a class. Undeterred, she started her own unique art classes, first held in a church, and from there to dedicated quarters in South Orange, where classes were geared for children 18 months – 6 years.

Donna Bernstein
Donna Bernstein

Over the years, families began requesting higher level fine art classes. As that demand grew, The Messy Artist realized the need for staffing with a fine art background. Viviana, who had been with The Messy Artist since 2006, took on her current position as director of fine arts right after their move to East Hanover in 2012.

Viviana, Director of the Fine Arts Program
Viviana, Director of the Fine Arts Program

After relocating and having room to expand, it was time for “the little kid” art studio to grow up a bit. To begin the metamorphosis, The Messy Artist brought Anthony and Jessica aboard. Both employees have a bachelor’s degree in art education.


Two years later, The Messy Artist is pleased to debut its new home for fine art, Studio 356. It is the culmination of all of our artistic and educational expertise. We are proud to expose young minds to the endless possibilities of fine art, and to assist them in refining their craft.

messy artist art class for children batiks best art classes and parties north jersey morris county nj messy artist art classes for kids summer art camp for kids new jersey ? and YugiStudio 356 offers the following for older children and adults in our East Hanover Studios.

5yrs-up-1024x111 adult-art-classes-1024x111 afi-1024x111 adult-workshops-1024x111 corporate-events-1024x111


Please visit our website or stop by our studios if you would like more information about Studio 356.


A History in Special Needs Education

Hello Kids Art is going to take the next two weeks to delve into the unique relationship The Messy Artist creator, Donna Bernstein, has with the combination of special needs and art education.  The first installment this week will be a look at her history and the benefits of our art education here at the Messy Artist for children with special needs, and the next post will be tips and techniques Donna has learned from her years of experience and incorporated into the program.  Here is what Donna has to say, in her own words:

2014 has been a year of reflection for me. Both my son and I have entered a new stage of our lives: he as a freshman in college and my husband and I as empty nesters. This has made me look back at the last twenty years of my life.

As you may expect, there’s a lot of talk in our household about college majors and careers.  I find it interesting that kids need to choose so early what they want to do with the rest of life. Certainly after thirty years out of college, many of our jobs are not jobs or careers we started with. So much of our career path becomes dictated by the job that becomes available to you: especially in today’s economy.

When I went to school I was on a straight path to get my teaching degree. However, my first job out of college did dictate much of my career path and I am so thankful for that. It truly was by chance that I ended up working at Albert Einstein Medical Center in their Therapeutic Nursery with children with autism. Working at the Therapeutic Nursery became the start of my love for children with autism. I worked part time in the nursery school and part time on a research project studying children with language delays and autism.  While there, I was fortunate to have Albert Einstein Medical Center pay for the classes for my M.A. in education from Columbia University Teachers College.


Under the direction of top leaders in the field of autism, Dr. Doris Allen and Dr. Isabelle Rapin, my first job became a career changing experience. I developed top-notch teaching skills, diagnostic skills on identifying children with autism, innovative techniques on working with children with autism and so much more. I became completely entrenched in my work and learning about children with autism. After several years at Albert Einstein Medical Center, I moved on to work at other schools and spent much of my early career working in early intervention with children with autism.

new jersey art class and party children fine art class for children morris county nj

I see two important aspects of our program at The Messy Artist that benefit children with special needs. The first is learning through play.  Children soak up so much as they are playing – from motor skills to language acquisition to confidence.

This website is a great resource for outlining elements of learning that are achieved through play: developmental, emotional and educational.


The second aspect of our program that benefits children with special needs is the sensory exploration.

  1. Research shows that sensory play builds nerve connections in the brain’s pathways, which lead to the child’s ability to complete more complex learning tasks.
  2. Sensory play encourages language development, cognitive growth, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving skills, and social interaction.
  3. Sensory play aids in developing and enhancing memory
  4. Sensory play can be calming and soothing when a child is anxious or frustrated.
  5. Children learn concepts such as hot, cold, sticky, dry, full, empty and so much more.

Sensory play is a key element of our program.  Each week we have one or more sensory stations for the children to explore, and we change them every week.  Here are a few of them:

hello Amy!

toddler art elementary classses best teacher Amy

Sometimes life has a wonderful way of circling back around. Back when I was first starting The Messy Artist 15 years ago, teaching classes in a rented classroom a few days a week, I would also help my sister by caring for my niece. I would take her to her nursery school, located just up the street from me in the South Mountain neighborhood of Millburn. (The nursery school was located in an elementary school that had been closed due to low enrollment and was being leased to the nursery school. It has since been re-opened into a neighborhood elementary school – my son went there and many of our current students now attend it!)

Between drop off, pickup, and school activities I got to know the teachers at the school well, and could see the wonderful instruction and care that the students received.  One teacher in particular that stood out was Amy.  I was able to observe her teaching style and interactions with the children and was always impressed by her calm, warm and knowledgeable style.  Amy was not only a skilled teacher, but a wonderful manager: she came to become assistant director of the nursery school.

Eventually, my niece graduated from nursery school. The Messy Artist also grew, and moved from Millburn to two different locations in South Orange and then to our current space in East Hanover.

One day, right before our move to East Hanover, I got a call out of the blue from Amy.  She was looking for work, and wanted to know if The Messy Artist was hiring.  Of course, I wanted to leap at the chance to have Amy become part of The Messy Artist family, but did not have an Assistant Director level position open at the time.  However, after discussing the situation further, it worked out perfectly – as a mother now, Amy was looking for a lifestyle change that would allow a lower responsibility position yet still provide the opportunity to continue  her love of working with children.  We are thrilled to have Amy at The Messy Artist in an ideal position for all of us.

-Donna Bernstein, owner/creator of The Messy Artist

fine art classes Morris County Amy-3Here is our interview with Amy, in her own words.

What are the first art experiences you remember as a child?

Some of the first art experiences that I remember as a child are easel painting while in nursery school and creating puppets and putting on puppet shows when I was in first grade.

What is your background in early childhood education?

I earned a A.S. degree in Early Childhood Education and my B.S.degree in Human Services. All of my internships were with young children and their families.

How long have you worked at the Messy Artist? What is your position?     

 I have worked at The Messy Artist since the spring of 2012. I was fortunate to be a part of the move to our wonderful studio in East Hanover.  I am an assistant teacher.

nj art class for kids best

Please say a little about your previous role as Assistant Director of the South Mountain Preschool.  How does that affect how you teach here at The Messy Artist?

I was a teacher and the Assistant Director at South Mountain Nursery and Kindergarten for 18 years.  South Mountain School rented space in Millburn and then in Maplewood until it closed in the Fall of 2004. Most of the children were in our care for a full day. Our time was filled with getting very messy indoors and out!  I am proud of the title I held during my years there: I was known as” The Pied Piper” of the two year olds.  My mantra was “It’s the Process NOT the project!”

Tell us about your own children. What kind of art projects and / or messy play activities do you like to do with your own kids?

My work at the Nursery School did help prepare me for the next stage of my life, becoming a parent. I have a nine year old son and a seven year old daughter both adopted from South Korea as infants. Together we have always incorporated art/messy play into our days. When my children were toddlers and preschoolers we would use play dough (some store bought, some homemade). We would go on walks and collect sticks, acorns and leaves and create collages. The children have always enjoyed cooking with me and we had a special stand  called “A Learning Tower” in our kitchen that would allow them to be counter height.

What are some of your favorite projects or topics that we teach?

 Some of my favorite materials at The Messy Artist include our new  and wonderful Snow Dough and Slime because I like to watch the amazement on both the children’s and adults faces as it keeps “changing” from solid to liquid. Over the summer, during our mini-camp drop off weeks, it gives us a chance to do some elaborate art work that requires a few steps. Last summer our 3-5 year olds made 3-D sculptures with card board tubes and then painted them.

Amy and a student enjoy Snow Dough at our messy table
Amy and a student enjoy Snow Dough at our messy table

What advice do you have for parents to help them to encourage their children in art?

It is so important that adults provide children with hands on activities through out their day. Children are sponges and they will soak up everything that you do. Remember that being messy is OK! If you are hesitant the children will be too.   Set the tone by being silly, laughing, listening to music. Try to be outdoors each day and show the children all of the beauty in nature as well.

fine art childrens kids classes new jerseyThank you for sharing, Amy – we always love to hear your perspectives on kids, learning and art.

art classes and parties north jersey Amy at door