Art Classes Offer "Transformative" Experience To People Living With Mental Illness

PeaceLove Studios is "in the peace-of-mind business," according to co-founder Jeff Sparr. A nice, simple mission statement, to be sure. But there's nothing simple about the problems that PeaceLove is trying to solve, and that's what makes the organization so important and powerful.


The PeaceLove movement started with Jeff, who had been living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) for years and was plagued by the anxiety that his condition caused in his day-to-day life. When a friend suggested that Jeff try painting as a way to relieve his stressful feelings, Jeff gave it a shot immediately, desperate for something that would ease his symptoms and his mind. Well, painting worked.

"When I paint and create, I'm in control. And that's kind of invigorating for my soul," Jeff explains.

He recognized right away that the benefits of painting and creating art could help the massive and growing community of people living with mental illness in America. Soon after his first painting effort, Jeff showed up at the children's ward of the hospital for which he is a board member with a big bag of art supplies. And the results were magical, even surprising Jeff himself. So he expanded his concept, and founded PeaceLove Studios as a place where people in need of support could come to calm their minds and release their thoughts through art.

"PeaceLove is a space for me to come and be myself," says Elizabeth, a program participant, "and express the things inside of me in a way that's safe and colorful. It was life-changing to know that I wasn't alone anymore... that there were other people who felt the same way."

To date, PeaceLove has offered a safe space for expression to nearly 20,000 people—and Jeff says he plans to continue growing as long as there is need.

This video was produced by Lucia Nazzaro and shot/edited by Heather Holloway. To see more feel-good stories, check out our HooplaHa YouTube channel.

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