Categorized | Social Entrepreneur

PeaceLove Studios, Changing the Face of Mental Illness

PeaceLove Studios is a growing community of mental health advocates and artists creating conversations of acceptance, understanding and hope. PeaceLove is dedicated to building a positive symbol for mental health disorders and providing individuals with creative, motivational, and interactive programs designed to help achieve peace of mind, and has been garnering nationwide attention – and changing lives – since launching in late 2008.

Founder Jeff Sparr, a Rhode Island native, entrepreneur, artist, husband and father, has suffered much of his life with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Desperate for a release from the mental strain of his OCD, Sparr stopped at the art store one day and picked up some paints. Miraculously, Sparr found that when he painted, his symptoms subsided and he found an overwhelming sense of peace of mind. “I paint because it makes me feel better. It helps me and I thought it would help others. I painted the heart combined with the peace sign as a reminder that peace of mind and love in your heart are two basic but often elusive feelings. In a fast paced world and society sometimes we just need to stop and really think about and appreciate the things in life that provide us peace and love.” From that simple premise PeaceLove’s original expressive arts program Paint4Peace™ was born. Today, Paint4Peace™ has reached thousands of individuals and families affected by mental health disorders. Just this past month CVS/Caremark corporation stepped up and is sponsoring PeaceLove’s first Facilitator Training Program which will train 20 individuals to spread the Paint4Peace™ Experience to communities in need. This partnership assures us we will continue to grow into new markets and expand the reach of our program.

In a very short time frame PeaceLove has set out to accomplish three things; 1. Create a Positive Symbol for Mental Illness that tens of millions of people can rally behind, 2. Create an expressive arts program that motivates, inspires and builds self-confidence through creative expression, and 3. Create a physical space of inclusion where community members could share their stories and the struggles they endure to find peace of mind. “A lot of things I dreamed of years ago are becoming a reality,” said Sparr. “Finding my own peace of mind through painting has changed my life and helped me not only cope, but thrive, despite this debilitating disease.”

PeaceLove’s CEO Matt Kaplan says “The stigma surrounding mental illness today is quite possibly the greatest of the social injustices left facing our society. Jeff and I believed it would take a different kind of company and structure to make change. First and foremost we saw the impact of our program and how it changed individuals lives each and every day and we knew we needed to build a company that could produce revenues to self-sustain and grow our programming. Secondly, we saw the impact and pride community members took in wearing PeaceLove merchandise. Each product we sell is made by a PeaceLove Community member as a creative expression of the struggles we endure to find peace of mind and love in our hearts. These stories and social objects help start conversations and shed a soft light on mental health disorders. Each tee shirt or greeting card that is shared helps promote positive stories that ultimately create awareness and acceptance. When you shop PeaceLove,, you share PeaceLove. Our customers are benefactors in the sense that when they purchase merchandise, not only are they helping share our message of hope, but their purchases provide free art programming to communities in need. It’s truly social entrepreneurship at its best.”

Through the sales of merchandise, PeaceLove uses the revenues to provide free expressive arts workshops to classrooms, recovery groups, hospitals, corporations, veterans’ organizations, senior centers, boys and girls clubs and communities affected by mental health disorders.

Kaplan points out that other causes and their foundations have a positive symbol that carry a message; Livestrong and its yellow bracelet, breast cancer with the pink ribbon and subsequent campaign, are just a couple. “Surprisingly there’s virtually nothing for the 26% of the population, or nearly 75 million people, with a diagnosable mental illness,” he said, referring to the mental health community. PeaceLove is attracting companies like Hallmark, CVS and Philip Stein, among others, to support PeaceLove’s mission. Just this past December 15th, CVS/Caremark CEO Tom Ryan sent a holiday card to 210,000 employees worldwide promoting PeaceLove’s Symbol and mission. Day by day, PeaceLove is creating awareness and chipping away at the stigma of mental illness.

“We’re talking about something that affects tens of millions of people, and it’s invisible and misunderstood,” said Sparr. “We’re in sight of the last horizon of tearing down the stigma,” he said. “It can be done, it’s being done, and we experience progress every day.”

To Get Involved or learn more about the PeaceLove Community, PeaceLove Merchandise, or PeaceLove’s Programs visit us online at

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