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Central Vermont Youngsters Get Creative When Arts Bus Comes to Town

  • Libby Belitsos, 14, of Northfield, Vt., laughs as she shows friend Natalie Strand, 12, of Randolph, her artwork during a stop by the Arts Bus in Randolph. The girls were on their lunch break from rehearsal for Fiddler on the Roof at the Chandler Center for the Arts. Art teacher Heather DeLeone, of Williamstown, Vt., is at right. <br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Libby Belitsos, 14, of Northfield, Vt., laughs as she shows friend Natalie Strand, 12, of Randolph, her artwork during a stop by the Arts Bus in Randolph. The girls were on their lunch break from rehearsal for Fiddler on the Roof at the Chandler Center for the Arts. Art teacher Heather DeLeone, of Williamstown, Vt., is at right.
    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • The Arts Bus sits outside the Chelsea Library in Chelsea, Vt., on June 24, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    The Arts Bus sits outside the Chelsea Library in Chelsea, Vt., on June 24, 2014.
    (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Logan Nichols,5, of Randolph, works on making a paper bus while visiting the Arts Bus in Randolph, Vt., on June 24, 2014. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Logan Nichols,5, of Randolph, works on making a paper bus while visiting the Arts Bus in Randolph, Vt., on June 24, 2014. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Arts Bus Director Cynthia Sandusky chats with Betsy Button, of Chelsea, Vt., about the Arts Bus. The bus had been parked in front of the Chelsea Library for a couple of hours on June 24, 2014.  Children are welcome to do art projects on the bus for free. (<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Arts Bus Director Cynthia Sandusky chats with Betsy Button, of Chelsea, Vt., about the Arts Bus. The bus had been parked in front of the Chelsea Library for a couple of hours on June 24, 2014. Children are welcome to do art projects on the bus for free. (
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • On the green in Chelsea, Vt., Amanda Rosalbo,14, of Chelsea looks over a book with Maya King, 7, of Vershire, on June 24, 2014. They had been making an art project in the Arts Bus parked along the green. Free books are put out for kids to take. On the left, Leara King, 9, and Henry Rosalbo, 9, look over the milk jug monsters they made on the Arts Bus. (<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    On the green in Chelsea, Vt., Amanda Rosalbo,14, of Chelsea looks over a book with Maya King, 7, of Vershire, on June 24, 2014. They had been making an art project in the Arts Bus parked along the green. Free books are put out for kids to take. On the left, Leara King, 9, and Henry Rosalbo, 9, look over the milk jug monsters they made on the Arts Bus. (
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Artwork made on the Arts Bus hangs from the ceiling of the bus. (<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

    Artwork made on the Arts Bus hangs from the ceiling of the bus. (
    Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Libby Belitsos, 14, of Northfield, Vt., laughs as she shows friend Natalie Strand, 12, of Randolph, her artwork during a stop by the Arts Bus in Randolph. The girls were on their lunch break from rehearsal for Fiddler on the Roof at the Chandler Center for the Arts. Art teacher Heather DeLeone, of Williamstown, Vt., is at right. <br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • The Arts Bus sits outside the Chelsea Library in Chelsea, Vt., on June 24, 2014. <br/>(Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Logan Nichols,5, of Randolph, works on making a paper bus while visiting the Arts Bus in Randolph, Vt., on June 24, 2014. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Arts Bus Director Cynthia Sandusky chats with Betsy Button, of Chelsea, Vt., about the Arts Bus. The bus had been parked in front of the Chelsea Library for a couple of hours on June 24, 2014.  Children are welcome to do art projects on the bus for free. (<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • On the green in Chelsea, Vt., Amanda Rosalbo,14, of Chelsea looks over a book with Maya King, 7, of Vershire, on June 24, 2014. They had been making an art project in the Arts Bus parked along the green. Free books are put out for kids to take. On the left, Leara King, 9, and Henry Rosalbo, 9, look over the milk jug monsters they made on the Arts Bus. (<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
  • Artwork made on the Arts Bus hangs from the ceiling of the bus. (<br/>Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)

Chelsea — Do monsters skateboard? Can they ride a rope tow?

By the time the Kelly green, cartoon-covered Arts Bus left Chelsea on Tuesday afternoon, these and several related queries had been chewed over, if not definitively answered, by guest artist Heather DeLeone and some young visitors.

Oliver and Owen Goodrich, of Chelsea, spent about an hour on the bus, which was visiting the town’s public library. Using colorful pipe cleaners, felt, feathers and cotton balls, they transformed painted plastic milk jugs into monsters. Owen, 6, adorned his creature with six googly eyes, sparkly gold underpants, and matching gold teeth that appeared to be slipping out of place after he glued them on.

“He needs braces,” the boys’ mother, Heidi Goodrich, joked.

As they worked, DeLeone admired Oliver’s monster, a “mommy” with pink feathers sticking out of her head. “She’s very beautiful,” she said.

“Yeah, but she’s scary,” the 3-year-old replied.

“Scary and pretty,” Owen said. “Weird.”

The revamped International school bus brings music, theater and art activities to a dozen Vermont towns, stopping at schools, preschools, in-home child care centers, recreation programs, public libraries and special events. The idea is to bring the arts to kids and families who are “a little bit more isolated,” said Cynthia Sandusky, who directs the nonprofit program. “A lot of time parents have a hard time arranging for transportation, or sometimes (arts activities are) too expensive.”

Each year, about 2,000 kids visit the biodiesel bus, which seats 12 or 16 children at a time. The activities usually take about half an hour to complete, and while they’re enjoyable, there’s more to the program than just having a good time, said Sandusky, a former psychotherapist. “It’s helping kids to connect with their own creativity, which, in turn, invites more independent thought, more creative thought, and can be just a beneficial thing all around.”

The Arts Bus Project recently collaborated with the Vermont Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics to create Children, Trauma and the Arts. The book came out of their work with kids and families after Tropical Storm Irene, and includes articles about trauma and the effects of creative activity on the brain.

Sandusky said the bus provides kids with an important respite from their stressful, busy lives. “It’s a time that they can just explore what they are interested in,” she said. “We try not to put too many boundaries on it.”

While the activities are always free to the kids who take part, the Arts Bus has begun charging the organizations it visits that have access to grants to pay for its services.

The Arts Bus, created in 2010, has been “incredibly successful” in its first years, raising about $205,000 in grants, which covered about 90 percent of operating expenses, Sandusky said. But as with any small nonprofit, those kinds of resources eventually dry up.

“We’re getting to be too mature for (grants organizations) to support operating expenses,” she said. “Nothing lasts forever in the nonprofit world.”

They are considering various ways to sustain themselves, including running a small side business, such as a thrift store. They also have received a grant to work with other community organizations to collaborate on fundraisers, a strategy Sandusky thinks could be successful over time. “I am very optimistic about the future,” she said.

Fundraising is not the only challenge the program faces. As inviting and playful as the bus appears — the lively cartoons painted on its sides include a dancing pink-and-white cow and grinning guitar — it’s hard to imagine a child passing it by. Yet, when it comes to capturing kids’ attention, computer games make for stiff competition, Sandusky said.

She has nothing against the games — she plays them every once in a while herself. But unlike art, they are “such a passive activity, not requiring any creativity on the child’s side,” she said. “They’re actually set up to be addictive.”

Despite the allure of computer games, she’s seen children won over by art again and again. “It’s a myth that a child’s attention cannot be held by an art activity,” she said.

Earlier on Tuesday, the bus had stopped at Kimball Public Library in Randolph, where 30 or 40 children made their own miniature buses, some of which are on now display at the library.

When the bus filled up, kids waited outside for their turn, looking over the picture and chapter books Sandusky had set out, free to whoever wanted one.

During the 90 minutes the bus was parked in Chelsea, about eight children visited the bus to make monsters. Building a following in a town takes a while, and they have visited Chelsea just a few times, said Sandusky. But no matter how many children show up, “it’s all good,” she said. “The couple of kids who come have the experience.”

After the Goodrich family left, the bus was empty for a few minutes. Then, a group of children Sandusky had greeted earlier climbed aboard.

Amanda Rosalbo, 14, was looking after the kids, who included three younger siblings and two neighbor children. They had come from the library, where they often stop to use the computers and pick out books and movies, Rosalbo said. As the children settled into seats, she set them up with materials.

“I want feathers,” one of the girls said firmly.

Rosalbo was glad they had the chance to do art, she said. “It’s always nice to see the kids getting creative.”

Aimee Caruso can be reached at acaruso@vnews.com or 603-727-3210.