Patricia Reeves knows firsthand the healing power of art. Her miracle came in 1991, when she was near death with a shattered immune system.
“I had Epstein-Barr, and I prayed to the Lord. He made a house call. God used painting from my heart to bring me to health. That’s when I decided to take the mobile ministry out and let the people know how God works through the arts.”
The artist, who picked up her first paintbrush at age 7, began Art of Living Coalition in 1994. She focuses on nursing homes, assisted living centers and hospitals, to bring healing to people facing physical and mental illnesses.
“We call it Serving Soul Food through the arts for the purpose that art is medicine. We bring all faiths together and connect with the Creator and creativity.”
Her battle with bipolar disorder, and a three-month period as a shut-in 20 years ago, gives Reeves a special heart for the elderly.
“We need to reach out to the depressed and lonely among our senior population. We need to honor our elders and not separate them from the body of Christ,” she said. “I believe we need to do more for seniors, inside and outside the church.”
On a recent visit to Woodstock Nursing and Rehab Center, Reeves started a CD of praise music as she unloaded her paint supplies. The residents, with their wheelchairs and walkers, gathered around the tables where she placed makeshift palates of paper plates, dotted with autumn color paints, sponge brushes, paper towels and fresh sheets of paper.
This is what Reeves calls “a fertile ground for healing” through simple activities like painting and singing. As one resident painted a scene of evergreens and Santa’s sleigh, he talked about the days when he worked for a major department store and used his creative gifts in market merchandise.
Reeves has witnessed the therapeutic aspects of art among people with physical ailments. She has seen people who are legally blind add minute details to their paintings, and watched as an 18-year-old car accident victim who had lost his motor skills began to paint.
As she branches out into the community, Reeves said she needs more volunteers, age 14 and up, to add to her “army of artists.” Training takes place at Studio 121, her home base located in a house built in 1917. Just off Main Street in downtown Canton, the building houses an art gallery and workshops for resident and visiting artists. Children, teens and adults visit the studio for inspiration, art and music classes and to attend art camps.
To raise funds for the ministry, Reeves hosts two-hour Creativa-Tea Parties, combining painting and refreshments for bridal showers or small women’s groups. Proceeds from a new Women’s Clothing Bank, open by appointment 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays, also benefit the ministry. The studio also is used by prayer groups and other ministries each week.
Reeves is reminded daily of the work God has done in her life, and is looking for more opportunities to share that gift with others.
“I believe it has saved my life, changed my mental health and maintains my joy in the Lord. I see how He touches people in a very profound yet simple way. People might be intimidated by a big black Bible, but they’re not intimidated by a paint brush. Their spirits are open to receive. I get the instant gratification as I see people encounter the Lord through art. It’s beautiful.”
Studio 121 is at 121 Brown St., Canton 30114. 770-479-6961. www.thestudio121.org.
Editor's note: This story previously appeared in the November edition of The Cherokee Vine, a monthly newsletter that highlights news and events from churches, ministries and charitable organizations in Cherokee County. Stories and newsletters can be found at www.thedailyvine.com.