Elena Schaef ’16 Mobilizes Art to Reach Disadvantaged Students

Elena Schaef ’16 Empowers Students Through Art from Bowdoin College on Vimeo.

It’s always evident when the ArtVan comes to town: it’s a 12-passenger van splashed with multicolored designs over every visible surface, filled to the brim with art supplies — and you can spot Elena Schaef ’16 behind the wheel. ArtVan is a non-profit art therapy organization that brings the arts to disadvantaged kids who don’t have easy access to such a creative outlet. Arts involvement has a number of long-term benefits on educational outcomes, including a higher college graduation rate for low-income students.

Building on her experience working and performing with Bowdoin’s theater department, Schaef has developed an improv theater program for ArtVan participants this summer, including costume design and warmup games. “Art just crosses all kinds of boundaries,” Schaef said, “and really digs into your subconscious in a way that you don’t need to train or hone.”

This video was shot at the ArtVan headquarters in Fort Andross, Brunswick, and at Tree Street Youth in Lewiston, ME.

To see what other Bowdoin students are up to this summer, check out this interactive map by Nina Underman ’15.

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