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Paint Love empowering kids, offering art programs at Legacy Park

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Paint Love empowering kids, offering art programs at Legacy Park

Paint Love, a nonprofit organization that brings art programming to youth facing poverty and trauma, is a tenant of the Hyatt Cottage at Legacy Park. Photo by Zoe Seiler.

Decatur, GA — Paint Love is working to empower kids through art at Legacy Park and across metro Atlanta.

Paint Love moved into the Hyatt Cottage at Legacy Park in April to expand their space and programs. The nonprofit organization was housed in the administration building at the park.

“Our tenant Paint Love, that is located upstairs in [the administration building], is really growing,” Legacy Decatur Executive Director Lyn Menne said at the March Legacy Decatur meeting. “They got a new grant. They are expanding their services, and they needed more office space.”

Paint Love leases the four front rooms of the cottage to provide areas for yoga, art and social-emotional learning. The organization does movement and regulation exercises with the children they serve.

Paint Love partners with educational and nonprofit organizations to engage youth through projects that are artist-led to empower conversations guided by trauma-informed standards.

“We typically work with kids who have experienced trauma and who have experienced some really tough situations, so they’re constantly in a state of fight, flight or freeze. It’s hard to come down to an art-making space, so we do that to bring ourselves and keep ourselves grounded,” said Chloe Young, community engagement and development coordinator for Paint Love.

Hyatt Cottage is part of the creative village Legacy Decatur and the Decatur Arts Alliance are working on to create studio space and apartments.

“We talked with the Decatur Arts Alliance,” Menne previously said. “We’ve been working with them on the creative village concept. They were fine with it, and it will be able to actually generate some revenue that we can use to put back into some of the work that’s going on there. Hyatt was never intended to be a residential solution because it’s the only one of the four buildings that was never converted to apartments.”

Paint Love was started in 2014 by Atlanta artist Julie McKevitt. According to the Paint Love website, McKevitt established the nonprofit with a mission rooted in direct responses to challenges she saw in the community:

– Youth facing trauma and poverty benefit from creative outlets, but often don’t have the least access to art programs,

– Schools and organizations often lack the resources to provide creative experiences,

– Many artists want to use their talents to give back, but don’t have the time or support to find or plan service opportunities.

“Julie was working with a group when she realized how powerful art truly was,” Young said. “These were girls who have experienced sex trafficking and really tough situations. The way they really shined while working with Julie and being able to experience a project that was deep and meaningful was how Paint Love started. Since then, we have served 17,000 kids in Atlanta.”

Young added that Paint Love tries to serve at least 2,000 kids per year, but has surpassed that mark for 2022. The organization connects children with artists around Atlanta, and also focuses on emotional regulation exercises.

Paint Love’s trauma informed model helps kids work through how they feel when they first enter a space, introduces them to the staff and volunteers, has an artist lead an activity, and closes with kids reflecting on how that process was.

Children are the primary focus, but Paint Love also works with young adults.

“We have done a high school membership program [that] has done a lot with keeping teenagers in school and then seeing their success post-graduation, just getting them to that point,” Young said.

This year, the summer camp had two main focuses — nature explorers and storytellers.

“Our summer camp work really goes into making sure that it’s equal,” Young said. “We want to make sure that kids who don’t have the opportunity to go to a high-end art camp are getting real art experiences without having to pay the real art experience price.”

Paint Love has also worked with City Schools of Decatur to do a residency at Talley Street and Fifth Avenue Upper Elementary Schools, as well as a poetry residency at Beacon Hill Middle School.

“We brought in fiber artists [at Talley],” Young said. “For the first two weeks, the fiber artists did weaving with the kids, so teaching the basic skills of weaving, and then going through that process and really connecting it to social-emotional skills. The last week they did specials, so that’s when the fiber artists would bring in something that they really liked and taught them their skills. They did wet felting and sewing, and then all the weavings that kids did, they contributed to one large piece.”

Young added that Legacy Park has been a convenient location for Paint Love and the organization wanted to remain at the park to serve the kids in the area.

“I’m glad that we will have a home that our supplies will live in, and it’s stable, but I’m also glad that we’ll get to know the community more. I think we’ve done Truckin’ Tuesdays and that’s been an awesome opportunity to get to know the people here and to know the Decatur community and be involved in not only the arts, but the community side of things.”

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