Jeffrey Maxim and his mother, Vera Melianovich, worked on the art project together, drawing a forest on one side of a large sheet of white paper and a desert, complete with a green cactus, on the other.

At its center, Maxim drew two smiling stick figures holding hands, to represent him and his mom. Above that he wrote, “Love & Family.”

It was Monday, and the pair were taking part in a workshop at the Waterville Area Soup Kitchen’s warming center with artist Peter Bruun and volunteer Lisa Christensen. When Bruun told Maxim the work would be shown as part of a public exhibit, Maxim became visibly excited and delved into the piece.

Maxim, who has autism, and his mother, are living at the Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter, trying to get back on their feet after facing challenges including the loss of Melianovich’s job as a chef during the coronavirus pandemic and a recent car accident that left her without a vehicle.

Mother and son are a team, they told Bruun, who listened intently as they talked about their hopes and dreams and expressed appreciation for the kindness shown them by soup kitchen director, Carla Caron.

While the regular workshops are designed to invite people to make art who otherwise might not have the opportunity, it also is part of a wider community initiative. Bruun has spent the last several months getting to know people and hosting art-making workshops at various places, including the South End Teen Center, High Hopes Clubhouse for those with mental illness, Waterville Area Art Society, Waterville’s alternative school, Waterville Comprehensive Treatment Center, Educare and the colleges.


The project, called “Together,” is possible through a grant from Waterville Creates to Studio B, a nonprofit Bruun co-founded and directs. The studio’s mission is to use art and stories to create spaces where everyone is seen, heard and valued as a way to help cultivate well being and build stronger communities.

That Bruun, 60, of Damariscotta, is putting his heart and soul into the project is palpable as he works with people, collecting their life stories, listening to their experiences and guiding them as they create art. He records their comments and plans to frame their works, to be accompanied by museum labels that tell their stories.

A drawing by Jeffrey Maxim and his mother Vera Melianovich nears completion during the workshop that artist Peter Bruun hosted at the Waterville Area Soup Kitchen in Waterville on Monday. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

The project will culminate in a series of events and exhibits at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center downtown during the month of April. Nearly 100 pieces, as well as 27 of Bruun’s, will be part of the exhibits. A complete list is available at Together | Peter Bruun (

Bruun said he has developed relationships with many people, including those at the soup kitchen, who face a host of challenges, including homelessness, behavioral issues and a stigma about how they live and appear to others. In the workshops, he has created a forum where they can be heard and recognized.

“That is the value that I feel I bring through this project, to this special place,” he said. “I hope to honor and illuminate the incredible grit and humanity and warmth of the people I am meeting here. They’re just regular folks with hard challenges.”

He also wants to highlight places such as the soup kitchen in the project, he said.


“Places like the Waterville Area Soup Kitchen recognize the value of each person who is a member of this community and wants to have it work for all of us, together,” he said.

He feels privileged, he said, to be able to see the inner workings of local “subcommunities,” and learn what the people who belong to them value about those places. Not only are they making art, they also are talking about and working toward fulfilling needs they have identified such as a local recovery community center, and a youth and community venue in the city’s South End.

“Those gatherings are really only valuable if, from them, you’re getting actual outcomes,” Bruun said. “Talking about something is great; actual outcomes is better.”

The late Paul J. Schupf, an art collector and philanthropist who gave a major gift for construction of the Schupf Center, was adamant that it welcome all people, including those who are marginalized.

“There is a cultural inclination to think it’s not for them,” Bruun said. “I know that Waterville Creates wants it to be for everyone, and I know I want it to be for everyone.”

Bruun has been using art to engage people for about 30 years. When his daughter died of an overdose about 10 years ago, he became even more drawn to social justice issues and those affected by trauma, mental health challenges and substance use disorder.

“They’re my people, and to allow them opinion and voice and to offer some care for populations affected by those issues — that’s all surrogate for doing for my daughter what I can’t do anymore,” he said. “That’s the fire in my belly.”

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter 35 years. Her columns appear here Saturdays. She is the author of the book, “Comfort is an Old Barn,” a collection of her curated columns, published in 2023 by Islandport Press. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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