Bath mobile arts therapy program gets new 'ArtVan'

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BATH — ArtVan, a mobile arts therapy initiative that offers programming in several communities, is hitting the streets with a new set of wheels.

The Bath-based program, founded in 2004, provide free, year-round non-clinical art therapy workshops to under-resourced neighborhoods in Bath, Brunswick, Lewiston and Auburn. ArtVan also travels to Biddeford during the summer.

“We found out … last July that our current van was probably going to be due for a replacement sooner than we had thought,” Samantha Collins, ArtVan’s operations and development director, said in an interview April 4.

As a result, the program kicked off a fundraising campaign last fall, receiving more than $33,000 in donations and sponsorships from local businesses, foundations, and community members. It was enough to purchase a replacement for the 2003 model last month, and have enough left over for a van maintenance reserve fund, Collins said.

A donation page for the fund can be accessed through artvanprogram.org.

The new van, a 2013 Ford, is “in much better shape, and we hope to get at least 10 or 15 years out of it, if not many more,” Collins said.

Like its predecessor, it’s a 15-seat passenger van, but most of the seats are cleared out to make room for art materials and ArtVan staff.

“The van is literally a vehicle to achieve our mission,” Collins said. “It allows us to get to isolated communities and bring them the art therapy work directly, so that they don’t need to secure transportation to access the services. It’s really important that we have a reliable vehicle, so that we can build relationships with the youth who live in those neighborhoods, and be there on a consistent basis.”

The program serves all ages, with an emphasis on younger people, she explained.

“It’s really about giving youth a place to express themselves, and to really think critically about who they are, and who they want to become, and using the art as a vehicle” of expression, Collins said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

ArtVan, a Bath-based arts therapy program, has a new set of wheels.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.