Bath Housing Residents Get Creative with ARTVAN

 Wellness Opportunity Offers Safe Socializing and Fun with Paint and Scissors


BATH — If you know the ArtVan program, operating out of Bath for some 18 years, you might think of restless summer kids and after-school students learning from the beauty of the creative process. Expressive Art Therapist Jamie Silvestri and the City of Bath Community Development Office originally created an afterschool program for youth in Maritime Apartments and Hyde Park in 2004; a partnership with Bath Housing soon followed.


Over the years, ArtVan has worked with Bath Housing in offering creative workshops that allow art therapy to enlighten, heal and transform. In many cases, simply discovering — or rediscovering — the joy of the creative process is enough to lighten a daily load. Being with peers and friends is another path to wellness.


This holiday season, the colorful, funky ArtVan visited Bath Housing properties the Moorings, Anchorage and Seacliff , where residents rolled up their sleeves and got paint and glue under their fingernails during three 90-minute “card making” sessions.


“We offered a lot of different materials, and called it a ‘buffet,’” Silvestri said. “We know that gathering, especially with food, is a way people love to socialize and celebrate, and Covid has made that very difficult. So we called it a ‘buffet,’ and offered a huge variety of mediums, from bright and colorful inks and large paper, to collage, stamping, and stenciling…”


Beyond their creative expressions, the gathering offered the opportunity for residents to safely socialize, something that the pandemic unfortunately continues to make difficult. Bath Housing has been extremely cautious the last 18 months, and scaled back programming that would normally offer an easy way for residents to be together.


“Part of our goal was simply to pull people together, there’s been so much isolation,” Silvestri said. “Some didn’t even make art, and that was ok! It was about being together. But most created cards, and some just made big, colorful images; people were expansive and expressive, and it was really wonderful.”


ArtVan Therapeutic Arts Assistant Julianna Nelson saw residents opening up in different ways. “Some had never used these materials before, and it was so great hearing how excited they were to share their work with friends and family. I kept hearing people saying how happy they were with the experience.”


One of them was resident Renee, who “went big,” and created large-scale pieces.  “That was really fun, and I enjoyed the chance to all be together,” she said.


“We’re so delighted to welcome ArtVan programing to our properties, providing an opportunity for both socialization and artistic expression,” said Bath Housing Executive Director Debora Keller.  “At the start of each workshop, participants were asked to share what they are currently grateful for with the group. The themes residents shared at each session were consistent, about being happy to safely gather together for the activity, and being grateful that they, their family and friends are healthy.”


ArtVan operates in four counties in Maine, and can be reached at 207-805-4323.