Posted on

March 29, 2024
Contact: Chris Melville, [email protected]

How Art Is Building Community and Combatting Isolation in Central Maine: The Together Project at Waterville Creates

At a time when the Surgeon General has declared loneliness an epidemic, an artist in Central Maine has teamed up with a community-based arts organization to leverage art’s power to connect and heal.

Social engagement artist Peter Bruun moved to Maine five years ago for a change of scenery after a 30- year career in Baltimore, where he was celebrated for bringing that city’s diverse populations together around issues of shared concern. Over decades he honed a model of social practice using art to gather people, first in the act of creating, and later as a catalyst for community conversation. The result is an art-based practice that tackles critical social issues by moving beyond mere commentary, educating and connecting people to each other and to helpful resources.

Last year Bruun partnered with Waterville Creates, a nonprofit building community through transformative arts experiences for all, to address isolation in the Waterville area. The resulting project, Together, is engaging people across the region to examine what community means to them.

“I created this project because I know that people who live on the margins in communities don’t usually get to have their voices heard and experiences valued, much less have agency in effecting positive change,” Bruun said. “The impact of a project like Together does not lie in the art workshops alone, it does not lie in the exhibitions alone, nor the public programs alone, but in the strategic sequencing of these three project components.”

Bruun has conducted interviews and art workshops with hundreds of citizens, including unhoused people, those with addiction, disaffected teens, and new Mainers, through organizations such as the Waterville Area Soup Kitchen, High Hopes Clubhouse, Waterville Comprehensive Treatment Center, and the Alternative High School to unearth positive stories of community.

The resulting anecdotes paint a moving portrait of community members suffering in isolation finding meaningful connection through art. From the unhoused mother and her disabled son sharing their burdens with new friends to the frustrated teen safely expressing his feelings of invisibility through drawing, the process has been as valuable for the community as the product.

“The word ‘community’ is used so often but rarely feels present or real in our lives,” said Serena Sanborn, manager of outreach + community partnerships at Waterville Creates. “Peter’s workshops cultivate a palpable sense of community, uncovering not only whom we rely upon and uplift, but also how we forge connections and belonging. His work helps people recognize both their capacity to support others and the instances where they themselves have been uplifted by community.”

Together culminates in a series of events featuring art, music, and conversation to unite participants with local leaders and the general public and to celebrate Waterville—the city’s successes and enduring qualities, as well as its potential to address challenges in new and creative ways.

An opening event on April 5 features an art-and-audio installation, Hearing, Holding, Healing in the Ticonic Gallery at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center, 93 Main Street, Waterville, in which the voices of Waterville youth complement an exhibition with nearly 100 artworks by residents, each sharing a story of positive community experience. Hearing, Holding, Healing is sponsored by Surette Real Estate, Morning Sentinel/Kennebec Journal, MaineGeneral Health, the City of Waterville, and Kennebec Savings Bank.

April 5 also marks the simultaneous openings of two additional Together exhibitions. Anecdotes and Inspirations features dozens of works created in painting and drawing workshops led by Bruun over the preceding several months. The pieces will be on display throughout the Paul J. Schupf Art Center. Art for All is an open call exhibition representing a multitude of artworks sharing two common qualities: the art has been made in the Waterville area, and it broadly speaks to themes of living, working, and playing together in the region. The exhibition will be placed in buildings and storefronts on and around Main Street in Waterville, serving as a de facto celebration of a diverse creative community. Visit for a full catalogue of work and locations.

Related events throughout the month will touch on the needs of youth and those affected by addiction and connect the business community by spotlighting how the arts can be an economic driver that improves livability in communities. The final event on April 27 will bring all participants together and showcase additional participating organizations, including the Waterville Area Art Society, Colby Arts, Educare, and Mid-Maine Regional Community Adult Education.

By using art as the catalyst to interrupt social patterns that lead to isolation, Together offers a model of social practice that any community can emulate, creating a healthier and more connected population.

“That is the beauty of linking art to actual social outcomes in strategic ways, such as I’ve sought to do with Together,” said Bruun. “People’s voices not only rise, not only are lit up, but they also come to matter.”

For more information, visit and

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and realized in partnership with the Colby College Museum of Art and its Lunder Institute for American Art.


About Waterville Creates

The mission of Waterville Creates is arts experiences for all. Offering diverse programming for all ages, Waterville Creates is building a thriving, connected, and equitable community through shared experiences in the arts. For more information about Waterville Creates, visit