Anu Jayakaran, 9, left, and her siblings Priya, 3, center, and Addie, 5, create art Monday at the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville as their mother, Allison, watches. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

Anu Jayakaran was happily spending her 9th birthday Monday creating art with her siblings, Addie, 5, and Priya, 3.

They were sitting at a small round table in the Paul J. Schupf Art Center in downtown Waterville, drawing, coloring and comparing.

Their mother, Allison, was just on the other side of a glass window in the pottery studio, making teacups.

She stepped out to say “hello.”

“This was one of Anu’s birthday wishes,” she said. “They love the art carts and seeing what’s different and what they can create.”

Allison Jayakaran was talking about special carts beside each table that contain little art booklets Anu and Priya were coloring in, as well as free pencils, crayons and other supplies. Addie had created a drawing of a boat on the ocean with boaters catching fish and others enjoying the water.


“They just went swimming — they jumped off a dock,” Addie said.

The children are homeschooled by their mother, who said she usually visits the pottery studio in the evening after they have gone to bed, but they also come during the day, about twice a week. They take part in a program by Waterville Creates called Youth Arts Access Fund which is open to all those under 18 and everything is free of charge. They can see films at the Maine Film Center at the Schupf Center, attend Waterville Opera House shows, participate in art camps and do other activities.

Allison Jayakaran said they love the center.

“We moved here from California where there was a lot more art and culture,” she said. “For us, this is refreshing because it’s somewhere we can come and use art as an outlet. I think it brings diversity to Waterville. The staff is amazingly helpful and kind. My kids have actually built relationships with the staff and know them on a first-name basis.”

Anu, Addie and Priya were quietly doing their art Monday, but around the corner of the large lobby overlooking Castonguay Square, a crowd of children from Winslow Elementary School on a field trip was chatting about a playscape exhibit in the Colby College gallery.

March is national Youth Art Month, an initiative that focuses on the value of art education for all children and encourages support for quality school art programs, said Serena Sanborn, Waterville Creates’ manager of outreach and community partnerships.


Sanborn was at the pottery studio where Youth Art Month is being celebrated by area students in grades K-5. Their works include paintings, digital art, pottery and photography. Artwork by those in grades 6-12 is being exhibited at Greene Block + Studios just south of the Schupf Center on Main Street. Works by children of 32 schools from Athens to Readfield are represented in the exhibits which are open to the public, free of charge, through Sunday.

The works of art by central Maine children in kindergarten through grade 5 are shown recently at the Paul J. Schupf Center in downtown Waterville as part of national Youth Art Month. More works by students in grades 6 through 12 are displayed at the Greene Block + Studios, also on Main Street. Amy Calder/Morning Sentinel

“It’s the largest Youth Art Month in the state of Maine,” Sanborn said. “For the opening March 1 we had 1,200 people come. It was amazing.”

Waterville Creates partnered with Colby College’s arts office and the Colby College Museum of Arts on the project. Twenty-five teachers and 480 students took part, according to Marie Sugden, Waterville Creates’ exhibitions coordinator.

“It’s our favorite exhibit of the year,” Sugden said. “It’s so rewarding and brings families downtown. This year is the 10th year of doing it in Waterville.”

Sugden said a lot of people who visit the Schupf Center to view the exhibits have never been in the building before and are surprised by its beauty and offerings.

“I think they’re really taken aback,” she said.

The month of April will showcase about 75 artworks and stories from the “Together: Art for All ” project at the Schupf Center and downtown businesses. The project, to include musical presentations at various locations throughout the month, is led by artist Peter Bruun and will include works by many people in the community.

Sugden and Sanborn said that all are welcome.

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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