The Riverbend and neighboring former Bigelow School are slated to be renovated into a 53-unit affordable housing facility by NewVue Communities CDC. While funding is cobbled together, the former school stood with broken and boarded up windows. City officials, inspired by a NewVue project in Fitchburg looked to the CDC to take on the community art project in Athol.

The Community Foundation grant allowed NewVue to bring art instructors to Athol to guide the student project. “Fifteen or 20 years ago, you couldn’t find foundations that wanted to support this kind of work”, Flathers said.

NewVue Director of Development Kerry Flathers explained the rationale behind the project. “There’s also thinking that when people drive by and see those big, beautiful pieces of artwork on the building, it’s a message to people that this building has a future,” Flathers said. “It’s not just an empty building that we’re all going to watch getting more and more ‘tired.’ We’re going to invest in it with this artwork and demonstrate that it has a beautiful future.”