julieannmckevitt

A Letter From Julie

A Letter From Paint Love’s Founder and Executive Director, Julie McKevitt

Julie McKevitt Paint Love founder and founding executive director

For years, I had a desire to start an arts-based nonprofit for kids, specifically for those facing childhood-trauma. I remember the day I shared this dream with my boyfriend (now husband). I was nervous he would laugh or brush it off. But he didn’t laugh...so naturally I married him. (Obviously there were other reasons too, He has really great hair 😉 and is kind and smart and great with kids...) A few years later, roughly five years ago, as newlyweds, my husband and I sat in a Cuban restaurant in midtown and wrote out plans for what would become Paint Love.

Julie and Aaron McKevitt Paint Love arts programming for kids Atlanta

Starting Paint Love has been an incredibly personal journey. It has involved every aspect of my life, including my friends, my family, my mornings, weekends, and my nights. We sacrificed some of our wants financially to pursue this dream. But what surprised me in this journey is that so many people, who once were strangers, have given and sacrificed for the dream of Paint Love. And because of them, Paint Love has become an incredible force in Atlanta.

What started out as six programs in 2014 has turned into one of Atlanta’s most sought-after, trauma-informed art programs for youth, with more than 220 events since our founding. This year, Paint Love will serve our 10,000th student, and continue being a leader for change in the Atlanta area. This will also be the year I step into a new role with Paint Love. As my family transitions into a new phase, I knew the timing was right to step out of the role as executive director.

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My friends and family closest to me asked if it would be the end of Paint Love. I’m so so humbled and honored to share that Paint Love is bigger than me and not only will it continue, but it will continue under the leadership of one of the most talented, creative and intelligent individuals I know. Laura Shaw will be Paint Love’s new Executive Director and I will transition to chairman of the board. If you have worked with Paint Love at all you know the important role Laura has played for several years now running operations, grant writing, and helping us plan and think strategically. I am so glad she wants to lead Paint Love into the future.

This move is not only the best possible decision for Paint Love, it’s the best decision for my family who has sacrificed so much for this dream. I will now be able to spend more time with my two girls and will put a lot of those Paint Love projects to practice in my kitchen with my three year old. Thank you for joining me on this personal journey, for praying, donating, listening, liking, and not totally blocking me when I asked you repeatedly for money. As Laura takes over I want her to feel welcomed and supported by the community that has carried me and this idea for so long. Thank you so much! I’m excited for what lies ahead.

Sincerely,

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Farm to Table Mural at Dowell Elementary

Julie helped the Garden Club at Dowell Elementary School create a collaborative mural of farm fresh fruits and veggies for their cafeteria! Dowell Elementary in West Cobb is in their 2nd year of sponsoring a "Let's play in the dirt" Gardening Club with students in grades K-3. This mural explored how food gets to our plates from farm to table! 

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June at Camp Peace

*Paint Love's projects at Camp Peace this summer were sponsored by See Beautiful through their generous Milestone Grant! 

What a crazy and incredible month, June has been for Paint Love! In the midst of our fundraising for our #SavePaintLove campaign, we have been working with one of our partners, Women’s Resource Center every week!

We’ve been working with their summer camp, Camp Peace, for the second year and have loved every minute of it!

The mission of Camp PEACE is to bring children exposed to domestic violence together for a summer of activities that facilitate Peace Education, Action, Compassion, and Empathy. Based on principles of Peace Education and Cognitively-Based Compassion Training, Camp PEACE will help children learn alternatives to violence while promoting tolerance, impartiality, affection, self-compassion and compassion for others.

Here are some of our projects and favorite stories from the month.


Week 1: We kicked off the summer with our very own Julie McKevitt leading this class! As soon as we walked in, kids automatically remembered Julie from Paint Love’s last summer with Camp Peace. We decided to work on a collaborative mural using paints, quilling paper & a photo of Atlanta! Our amazing artist, Rebecca Carmen, designed this amazing mural for us, and divided it for each child to have a canvas. Each child painted and decorated a square tile canvas that would come together to create a mural of Atlanta’s skyline!

These tile canvases were first painted and then decorated using construction paper of the same color! Each one of these tiles came together to create a large canvas.

These tile canvases were first painted and then decorated using construction paper of the same color! Each one of these tiles came together to create a large canvas.

 

Week 2: On the second week, we had just launched our #portraitORforfeit challenge online, and this definitely inspired our next project. I led this project by doing funky paper portraits! A lot of the kids choose to use bold colors with pink eyes and purple hair, while some created more traditional portrait pieces. With this project, we did some reflective writing as well. Since we were creating portraits of ourselves, we did short summaries on how we can create peace. Some chose to talk about how they can create peace for others while others discussed how they find peace within.

 
One kid's "bug"rock, don't those pennies look just like eyes??

One kid's "bug"rock, don't those pennies look just like eyes??

Week 3: We took the phrase, “Kindness Rocks!” into a very literal sense with this week’s project. Artist, Kathlene Linehan, led her first session with Paint Love by leading a project focusing on kindness. We gathered tons of river rocks and gave each child a few to paint. The kids could either make them to show kindness to others or as a reminder to be kind to themselves.

I was so impressed by what these kids made!

One little boy created a rock to look like a bug. I asked him why he wanted to make a bug, and he said because he had a friend who really loved bugs! So he was going to make it and give it to him as an act of kindness. He worked diligently, painting the bug, and even hot gluing his own pennies to act as the bug’s eyes! It was so cool to see how many kids made little sweet reminders like this to give to their friends or family.

This week was also super fun for me because we had a big group of volunteers from Georgia State come to help out! By this week, the kids totally remember us and are so excited when Paint Love shows up. In fact, one 8-year-old boy told me “I was really good at my job”, talk about a confidence boost!!

 

Week 4: Our last week in June, we had more GSU students join us and a brand new artist, Lauren Phillips. Lauren has been an elementary art school teacher for years, so we knew she would come with an exciting project! She came with a simple idea of making paper sculptures, just using paper, scissors, and glue. But as soon as Lauren showed the kids all the various ways one could use the paper, these kids’ imaginations went to work! They created everything from a greenhouse to a football stadium to a birdhouse!

This was another fun week for me to see the kids really dive into their work. One boy was being a bit of a distraction and was not participating when one of the GSU volunteers pulled him aside and began working with him. They started talking and all of a sudden he began making a giant roller coaster! He was so proud of his work, he kept coming back to check on it to make sure it was still standing.

As I was leaving, one of the younger groups started waving goodbye. They have trouble remembering my name so they just call me Paint Love because I’m always wearing my bright red Paint Love shirt when I go. One of the girls finally remembered my name and gave me a big hug! She asked, “You’re coming back next week right?” I said, “Yes! And we will be making something super fun!” She squeezed me as tight as she could and said: “I LOVE YOU PAINT LOVE!”


This month has been crazy between fundraising and multiple summer events, but moments like that always give me that extra push! I love seeing these kids faces light up when we show up with a wagon full of art supplies. I’ve had so much fun working with everyone at Camp Peace and inviting new people, like our volunteers from GSU, and our two new artists to the Paint Love community! We love what we do, and love it, even more, when we get to share it with new people! So thank you all for helping us create moments like these in serving our community. We are so very grateful.


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Thank you to See Beautiful for making our work this summer with Camp PEACE possible!! Paint Love couldn't function without the generous support of our community sponsors like See Beautiful.