When the colorfully painted ArtVan rolls into a neighborhood, honking its horn and gathering attention, children and teens run after it to greet the staff and to help unload art supplies for the day’s adventures. ArtVan, a HarpWorks client based in Bath, Maine, has been conducting afterschool arts programs for kids since 2004. As an art therapist, founder/director Jamie Silvestri knows certain mediums can elicit certain emotions, which she brings into project planning. Art is one means to transform imagination and emotion – through the creative process – into action. Silvestri believes we all are creative thinkers and doers: “If I were a musician, it would be a MusicVan; if I were a cook, it would be a CookVan.” ArtVan gives youth permission to open their minds to make positive changes, regardless of where their talents lie.
Every week, Jamie and her staff of professional visual artists take the ArtVan to subsidized housing neighborhoods in Bath, Biddeford, Brunswick and Lewiston-Auburn. They also work in partnership with group homes, shelters, support programs and schools on one-time hired bases or in ongoing collaborations. Local businesses, individuals, not-for-profit organizations and grant-making foundations all recognize the value of ArtVan’s work. Without ArtVan, these youth and adults might have no access to the arts or to the personal benefits of both enjoying and creating art. ArtVan participants also make art items that are sold to raise money to further the program. The artwork is exhibited and sold in galleries, art fairs and art walks, and through area retail establishments.
For youth who are particularly talented and interested in pursuing visual arts, Jamie and her staff have created ArtVan Artists Xtraordinaire (AVAX). These kids receive individual instruction and encouragement from ArtVan’s professional artists, go on tours to local artists’ studios, and help staff ArtVan booths and events. When ArtVan staff wrote a letter of recommendation for a youth artist to attend an arts program, the girl put a copy of the letter on her bedroom wall. “No one ever said such nice things about me before,” she said.
ArtVan should be on the radar of anyone interested in the arts, self expression, social services and Maine children and teens. The ArtVan model could be widely used as a means of reaching and making a difference in the lives of youth. ArtVan is on the web and on Facebook.
Update, 8/1/2012: Congratulations to Jamie and ArtVan on receiving news of a grant from the Quimby Foundation. And congratulations to the Quimby Foundation for making such an excellent choice.
(c) 2012 HarpWorks Writing Services. All rights reserved.