100 10×10 works of art are organized by theme at Frontier in Brunswick. Contributed / Michael Gilroy

Bath’s ArtVan has supported creativity in the Midcoast for nearly 20 years. Now, over 100 local amateur and professional artists are returning the favor with a collaborative project that will benefit the nonprofit and show off the region’s diverse creative talents.

ArtVan’s 10×10 exhibit opened Wednesday at Frontier, a Brunswick gallery, theater and café. Locals will be able to view the free show, which features 100 10-inch by 10-inch pieces of art and four larger 30-inch-by-30-inch works, through July 30, according to the ArtVan website.

“It’s pretty remarkable,” said Shannon Els, who recently took over the title of ArtVan’s executive director from founder Jamie Silvestri. “It’s just like ArtVan: it’s multiple mediums. We have so much texture and color.”

Frontier will host an opening night event for the exhibit at 5 p.m. on Friday, according to Ells. Admission fees for future events, including an “Art Bar” in May, an artist talk in June and a closing night in July, will benefit ArtVan, which brings art supplies and projects to neighborhoods and housing developments around the Midcoast.

Though the ArtVan was stolen and used to break into a Brunswick ATM last month, the group recovered and fully repaired the vehicle, which is now running smoothly, said Els. She said the police have not provided an update on their investigation into the theft.

According to Els, each of the 10×10 exhibit’s pieces represents one of four themes: bridge, messy, emerge and ignited. Artists were free to interpret those words, meant to capture the public’s emergence from the pandemic, in their own way, she said.


Nikki Pilgrim and her daughter Juniper both created watercolor paintings on birch panels, Pilgrim’s signature technique. Contributed / Nikki Pilgrim

“We tend to use the word ‘messy’ in a negative connotation,” Els said. “But we wanted to explore that. Life is messy. One can’t avoid that.”

The exhibit’s loose guidelines have resulted in a diverse collection of mediums, styles and ideas from artists of all different ages and experience levels.

Professional painter Nikki Pilgrim, working with the word, “emerge,” crafted a 30-inch by 30-inch watercolor painting of water lilies poking through a pond’s surface. Her daughter Juniper, 8, took a less literal approach to her own 10-inch by 10-inch canvas, based on the word “messy.”

“I think it’s going to be really cool when I get to bring Juniper to the exhibit,” said Pilgrim, who lives in Bath. “I think it will be very impactful to see her piece up on the wall with all these other artists of all different ages.”

Graphic designer and ArtVan Board of Directors member Jen Harkins got a taste of the exhibit’s diversity in her own home while trying in vain to organize her three daughters’ artistic processes.

Jen Harkins, a graphic designer, used digital tools to create this “messy” work representing life as a mother of three. Contributed / Jen Harkins

“We got a brand new box of acrylic paint, and the minute that came in the house all planning went out the window,” said Harkins, whose own artwork depicted the “organized chaos” of motherhood. “We sat down one weekend and all hell broke loose.”


Though Harkins and her daughters, aged 9, 7 and 3, all started with the “messy” prompt, she said they ended up in very different places. One daughter produced an anime-inspired representation of love, another a tribute to kittens, another an abstract exploration of color.

According to organizers, the differences in each work contribute to a beautiful whole.

“It looks fantastic,” said Frontier owner Michael “Gil” Gilroy. “It’s such a great representation of what ArtVan wants to do.”

Viewers will be able to purchase individual paintings online, Els said. Artists will share the proceeds with ArtVan, which will use the money to continue funding art projects for under-resourced areas around Bath, Brunswick and beyond.

“I’ve always had ArtVan in my heart because I knew it was something the community needed,” said Harkins. “It’s a great honor for us to help out with something that important.”

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