In early 2011, I received an e-mail from Matthew Kaplan, Co-Founder and CEO of PeaceLove Studios introducing his Expressive Arts program in Rhode Island and an invitation for the Art Therapy Alliance to partner with their efforts to spread the word about the benefits of art expression in mental health and wellness, as well as their inspiring story and mission. You can learn more about Co-Founder Jeffrey Sparr’s story and the inspiration for PeaceLove here.
I loved the energy, intention, and passion of PeaceLove’s initiatives to create awareness and advocate for mental illness through creative expression and leveraging social media to raise awareness about their message to Create Peace of Mind. It’s been a pleasure to use the power of my social media network in this positive way to contribute to the PeaceLove community and develop an online working relationship that supports one another, builds community, and supports creativity in mental health.
I’ve always wanted to see the PeaceLove Studio space in Pawtucket and meet the entire PeaceLove team and its community in person and off the grid! This past week I was so grateful to have that opportunity and then some:
The series featured nine speakers who each shared their story and contribution to creating peace of mind in their own life and in the world.
- Jeffrey Sparr- Artist and Co-Founder of PeaceLove shared his story of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and how painting has helped him manage his illness and create a creative voice of courage to answer his calling as a teacher, mentor, speaker, and advocate.
- Alison Bologna- Founder of Shri Studio talked about her work with creating the only outreach-based studio in Rhode Island offering yoga and character-building classes in shelters, schools, prisons, recovery facilities, hospitals and more. Alison passionately spoke of support, respect, honor, and inspiration as the values that guide the studio’s mission to create a life affirming space of positive energy and abundance for those it serves.
- Dr. Steve Rasmussan is Chair and a Professor in the Department of Psychiatry & Human Behavior at the Alpert Medical School and on faculty at Brown University. Dr. Rasmussan offered a research perspective to re-framing mental illness & OCD.
- Waylan Tucker is an Artist and Mental Health Advocate who shared his story about living with Bipolar Disorder and the role daily art making over the span of five years had on his recovery, confidence, and managing life outside the pages of his sketchbook.
- Katie Rich- Writer for Saturday Night Live and Past Second City Mainstage Cast Member spoke about her own experience with Panic Disorder. I really enjoyed her message about focusing on the “loves” in/of your life & work and to keep doing what scares you.
- Hillary Salmons- The Executive Director for the Providence After School Alliance (PASA) shared her innovative work with at-risk youth and highlighted the importance of us all to capitalize on our talents & strengths. Hillary also emphasized her open approach to “sharing our toys”, collaborating, and working together to reach success. Very inspiring!
- Nicki Maher- Vice President of Charity By Design, which includes the Alex and Ani brand spoke about making meaning and empowerment through design and a call for all of us to make the world a better place through finding our mission and spreading our message.
- Andrej Suskavcevis- CEO of the Craft and Hobby Association (CHA) highlighted the power of creative expression to create community, support, a sense of accomplishment, relaxation, and passion. He invited the audience to reclaim their creativity with CRE8TIME: “a movement to raise awareness for the need to devote more time for creative expression, and provide a forum for you to share your experiences – the joys, lessons, and results – with the creative community at large.” Love! I’ll be sharing more soon about CRE8TIME in an upcoming post on the 6 Degrees of Creativity blog.
- Amy Kinney- Program Director for PeaceLove Studios shared her story of transformation and recovery that was supported by her creative expression as she worked to explore and discover her outside and inside self. Amy’s story also included how her experience led her to help others through advocacy and creativity. Having met Amy briefly last fall in NYC and reading her book, Unraveling My Purple Sweater (a visual story about her depression and art-making), it was really nice to hear Amy speak about not only her experiences, but how she is helping others through the creative process.
Following the amazing Speaker Series there was a big party for lots of hanging out and an art opening in the PeaceLove Studio space. This was much fun and a great opportunity to continue connecting and be inspired by themes of community, service, creativity, and creating peace of mind. During this time I was able to meet Gail Ahlers of Ahlers Designs who created the beautiful PeaceLove Pendant Necklace I purchased earlier in the day, visit her studio space a couple doors down from PeaceLove, and learn more about her work and some of our common interests with using art for empowerment. What a pleasure!
One of the things I enjoy most is meeting people I have collaborated with or supported online. Visiting PeaceLove’s space, meeting Matt & Jeff, seeing Amy again, and connecting with so many supporters of their growing community and the invited speakers was an amazing, amazing time. I look forward to visiting again and continuing our collaboration!