canvas-1Beth Sillen, Eileen Burgess, Meg Sellig and Maricarmen Buckley hope Canvas Studio Art will fill a void that the public schools cannot. (Click to enlarge)


They ran a marathon together. They paint together. And now, they’re going into business together.

Four local women plan to open an after-school art instruction program in Rumson next month, hoping it will supplement the instruction available in the public schools.

Though they have high praise for the work of the public school programs, they know about the limits of what the schools can offer not only because they have 11 children between them, but because teachers in the public system have expressed frustration over it. And at least two of those teachers have signed on to provide instruction.

“The middle school art classes club is just spilling over with kids,” leaving little time for immersion in the fundamental principles of art that the new school will specialize in, says Meg Sellig, 41, of Rumson, a former art instructor at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and mother of three.

“We just want to have a comfortable place where Rumson kids can connect with art and get great teaching,” she says.

“We all grew up not having enough art,” says Eileen Burgess, 46, a former film producer and mother of four who lives in Rumson.

In on the endeavor with Burgess and Sellig are Beth Sillen, 44, a graphic designer from Fair Haven who has two teenagers, and Maricarmen Buckley, 39, a mother of two and fashion designer.

The foursome bonded over the past five years as devotees of Red Bank painter Judy Martin, at whose Washington Street atelier they gather to listen to classical music and readings of Proust while painting and critiquing one another’s work. In 2010, they also ran the New York City Marathon together, crossing the finish in about five hours.

Their school, Canvas Studio Art, which is to begin offering classes January 4, will occupy two floors of a former yoga studio on Carton Street.

The founders don’t plan to teach, though one will always be present as a “greeter,” as they dub the role. Instruction will be left to the likes of Amy Lepping, an art teacher at the nearby Forrestdale Middle School, and Kristen Lanfrank, of Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High.

Sellig says the impetus for Canvas came in part from Lepping, “who kept saying we need an after-school program for kids to get the basics.”

The focus, says Burgess, “is not so much the product as it is about skill development.”

Afternoon and evening classes, at $25 each, will focus each month on a distinct concept, such as line, color, texture, balance and movement. In addition, workshops in different media will be offered.

The space is also available to individual artists looking for easel space and for art-based children’s parties.