PAWTUCKET — PeaceLove Studios has a new home among kindred spirits in Hope Artiste Village.
As Matt Kaplan describes it, the studio he co-founded nearly four years ago with his cousin Jeffrey Sparr as a place to create mental wellness through art has joined the “community of artists” already happily ensconced in the renovated mill complex at 999 Main St.
“There was already a big creative network here, so we think it's a good fit,” he said, of the recent move from the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center downtown.
Kaplan added, “We're excited about our new space because it will allow us to have a bigger studio and classroom space, and also a store. Plus, this building offered tons of natural lighting, beautiful floors...it's the right environment for what we're trying to do.”
What PeaceLove Studios does is offer studio art programs aimed at those seeking mental or emotional stability through art. While not a licensed art therapy program, the gallery offers “expressive arts workshops” for children, adolescents, and adults of all abilities and skill levels. The workshops, notes Kaplan, are “open to anyone and everyone who is searching for peace of mind.”
PeaceLove offers workshops and programs for schools, corporations, and hospitals. Some are held at the gallery, and others are conducted on site.
“We work with all populations,” Kaplan noted.
Some of these range from adolescent and teen programs through Bradley Hospital to a new pilot program at the Veterans Hospital in Providence designed for veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. He noted that PeaceLove's program director, Amy Kinney, “has brought our program to all types of diverse communities.”
Kaplan is also enthused about the new store, which will allow artists to offer their works for sale. It is through the sale of merchandise, as well as the support of various partners and corporate sponsors, that allows for the free art classes to be provided. The store will be open on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., in conjunction with the Wintertime Farmers Market, which is staged throughout the sprawling Hope Artiste Village hallways.
PeaceLove Studios is also branching out from its Rhode Island roots. In May, a second gallery will open in downtown Las Vegas as part of “The Downtown Project,” an ambitious community initiative spearheaded by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos. The gallery will mirror what is done in Pawtucket, with art therapy workshops, gallery events, and a store that sells artists’ works.
Kaplan said that he and Sparr met Hsieh at the Business Innovation Factory BIF-8 Summit held in Providence last year. Sparr, who has battled obsessive compulsive disorder and related anxiety for much of his adult life, talked about his own experiences with the healing power of art and about PeaceLove Studios' mission.
The Zappos CEO was impressed by what PeaceLove is trying to do in promoting peace of mind through art, and expressed an interest in having a similar program in the nation’s gambling mecca.
“He realized that our program is great for a return on investment as well as a return on community,” said Kaplan. “Just like here, we’ll get out into the community.”
“We are really starting to build a national movement on promoting mental health as well as hope and support for mental illness,” said Kaplan. “We all have a connection to mental health. Everyone is either struggling with some kind of mental health issue themselves or knows someone, a friend or loved one, who is.”
PeaceLove Studios plans to officially debut its new space with a grand opening on Feb. 5.
For a full listing or available workshops or more information, visit info@PeaceLoveStudios.com