Self Expression Boxes with Zully Conde at Georgia Center for Child Advocacy

During my first week of Paint Love, I didn't really know what to expect of all of our events. I knew we had amazing artists, partners, and projects, but I wasn't aware of how well they all work together! 

My first event was at the Georgia Center for Chid Advocacy with the fabulous, Zully Conde leading our art project. Zully had requested wooden boxes, modge podge & magazines paper. I assumed it would be a cool project for the kids to use their creativity and decorate some boxes. However, both Zully and the kids exceeded my expectations. 

As we all can relate, sometimes how we present ourselves to the world, doesn't always align with who we really are on the inside. We are all complex creatures, yet sometimes, whether through society's views or our own view of ourselves, we can be boxed in certain categories. 

This can be especially true of children, as they try to create and understand who they are as an individual. We used the boxes as a representation of self, the outside of the box, portraying other's perception of us, while the inside was used to express our true selves. The kids took this idea and completely made it their own. Seeing these kids explore their identity at such a young age was beautiful. 

I saw one child who decorated her box with the statement “your scars make you beautiful.” This statement could be a testament to resilient cognitions. Using them in an art format can really help children internalize these kinds of messages since they are interacting with them in a physical way rather than just saying or writing them down.
— Rebecca Ahmadi, Psychotherapist at Georgia Center for Child Advocacy

I got to stick around afterwards and see these kids show their boxes to parents and siblings. Seeing how proud they were of their creations, made me realize just how important the daily work at Paint Love is. After seeing how this event went, I'm convinced I have the best job in all of Atlanta! ;) I'm so excited to begin my journey working with Paint Love.

Garden Transformation at Austell Primary School

The 3rd graders at Austell Primary School chase one another along the side of the grimed outlined path that extends from the school’s garden.

With digging tools in one hand and piles of dirt in the other, the children commence their quest in creating the tallest dirt-castle of all.

 “I’m strong, like John Henry!” one shouts “Come on! Come on! We need it to be taller!” says another.

It’s noon, on a Friday – and the students are so engaged that they forget they’re creating something permanent.

In a couple of weeks, the soiled paths will have instructional signs placed along the side of them, with large, brightly colored murals that read “Welcome to the Learning Garden” and six vibrant colored benches and signs, the students painted themselves.

Austell partnered with Paint Love to transform the school’s former garden into something more bright and inviting. Leading the project artistically, was The Creatives Project studio resident, Meta Gary.  She created a way for the students to participate throughout the garden's transformation every step of the way.

The students participate enthusiastically; when a task is set up, they’re eager to accomplish it.

“I’ve been really impressed by the skill level of a lot of the students,” Gary tells Paint Love. “And this thing that if you give a kid a task how eager and readily they achieve it.”

The school gave Gary full creative freedom in the project. “They wanted color and light,” Gary said. “… And maybe mentioned that they wanted some benches.”

Her design is inclusive, both within the execution and the finished product. With a double-sided chalked planned to be at the end of the path, Gary transcends her vision into an all-encompassing experience for the children.

But she isn’t the only one impressed. “Seeing Meta’s vision turn into to a real thing”… “And to see her put it in the hands of seven and five-year-olds… That’s impressive,” says Lynn Sullivan, a teacher at Austell.

Sullivan believes in giving students the opportunity to get involved – and she’s witnessed first hand the affect it has on the kids. While teaching for six years at the Ben Carson’s Science Academy Center, Sullivan learned that when you give students the opportunity to learn the material hands-on, the subject matter sticks.

Sullivan has also witnessed the subsequent incentives that arrive from these projects.

“For the students, this project has given them motivation for behaving as expected.”… “Despite what you might see in the classroom – when they’re out here, they’re different.”

The students are proud of the ownership in something, especially with a project that will be here long after they’ve left. When asked about their experience, answers ranged from, “I learned that anyone could paint” to “you don’t kill insects when you find them. You put them somewhere where they can be safe and give them a new home.” 

A special thanks to David Holcomb, who constructed the frames for the mural panels.


Donor Spotlight: Keyonda Noel

This year Keyonda Noel became the Chairman of the Paint Love Board of Directors. Noel first joined the Paint Love team as a donor in 2014, when her colleague, Paint Love co-founder Aaron McKevitt, told her about his wife Julie’s idea for the nonprofit.

Since then, Noel has found a simple way to work donations into her everyday life: “I enjoy couponing and looking for super sales, so it was more from a standpoint of giving funds and donating materials,” says Noel. “As I look for things for my home, I’ve added Paint Love to that list.” Noel is the web manager at Gwinnett Medical Center, but she dedicates her extra time to furthering the Paint Love mission.

 For Noel, passion for the Paint Love mission is second nature. “People spend 5 bucks on a Starbucks coffee. That same 5 bucks can buy an easel and change a kid’s life so I think it’s worthwhile, I really do. Whether it’s your time, your money, your talents, I definitely think that [donating to Paint Love] is something you should do,” says Noel.

As a mother, Noel recognizes the importance of art to a child’s sensory and motor development. Paint Love donors open the door to this crucial development for children who may love art but don’t have the materials to do it.

“Keyonda is an invaluable member of the Paint Love team,” says Paint Love founder Julie McKevitt. “She donates her time, skills and energy to Paint Love and we are so thankful for everything Keyonda and all of our donors do for us.”

Noel is optimistic about the future of Paint Love, saying that she sees a multitude of wonderful, generous donations that will help the team to build key partnerships, grow and expand. Her ultimate dream is for Paint Love to become a national nonprofit, extending the model that Julie McKevitt has designed to spread to other states and areas that are in need.