“Art impacts everything.”
That statement is front and center on the website for Paint Love, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that works with youth experiencing poverty and trauma. With the impact of a global pandemic, the statement now takes on a whole new meaning.
Leading the effort to make sure Paint Love reaches youth with its mission of bringing more art to more kids is Laura Shaw, a 2011 graduate of Millsaps College with a major in religious studies and a double minor in English and Faith and Work. She joined Paint Love in 2016 and became executive director in February 2019.
“The audience of youth we serve has just grown wider as there is not a community or person on the entire planet whose life is not impacted by the pandemic. By definition, COVID-19 is a traumatic experience,” said Shaw. “Providing trusted resources to parents, caregivers, and even directly to kids themselves about how to feel empowered and in control of how they respond to the circumstances is our job, and to even encourage a little creative fun and meaningful connection along the way!”
For an organization that usually works with nonprofits and Title I schools in a very hands-on way, the challenges presented by the pandemic demand creative answers. In response, Shaw’s team has developed a program to help children and those who care for them deal with the stress brought about by social isolation.
“Art projects and mindful activities can help kids learn to identify their emotional state, emotional regulation, and stress management,” Shaw said. “By introducing kids to positive coping mechanisms, they develop a toolbox of techniques they can use throughout their life to fight stress to deal with the coronavirus and beyond.”