“I painted. It made me feel better. I thought it would help others.”
And so began Jeff Sparr’s journey, creating peace of mind through expressive arts and story telling.
I first met Jeff when we were 12, as up and coming junior tennis players in the New England area. We would compete against each other several times during that era before life took us our separate ways. With tennis being one giant loose knit extended family, I would be re-introduced to Jeff some 40 years later. Who I met was a family man, a self-taught artist, and a teacher. Who I also met was a man on a mission dedicated to helping millions of people manage the often debilitating symptoms of mental illness. For Jeff is above all a survivor, battling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) much of his life.
“It was like discovering a super power, The discovery changed the course of my life. Once I started, I haven’t stopped painting since”
How it all came about almost never happened. Jeff, struggling with the crippling effects of OCD, was on the phone with a friend who in passing suggested Jeff maybe try painting.
“When you’re desperate, you’ll try anything”
Jeff turned his car around, gathered up all the paint supplies he could and immediately went home to try his hand at painting.
“Little did I know I’d be good at it. But more importantly, it dramatically subdued my OCD symptoms.”
That was over 20 years ago. Fast forward to 2009. On a whim, Jeff and his cousin Matt purchased a bunch of art supplies and headed down to the children’s intensive treatment wing of their local hospital. (A hospital Jeff had been a patient at himself). Once there, Jeff shared his story and struggles, challenging the kids to paint whatever gave them peace of mind. The kids not only found the experience enjoyable, they were able to communicate their internal struggles in ways they never could before. And in that spontaneous moment, the inspiration for PeaceLove was born.
Since 2009, PeaceLove has reached over 40,000 people across a full diversity of communities with the result always the same, participants experiencing improved mental wellness while learning new tools to communicate about mental health.
Earlier this year, Jeff’s work caught the attention of Mary Heath, the chief marketing officer of Newport, Rhode Island’s International Tennis Hall of Fame. In a project that came together very quickly, Jeff has been commissioned to do a series of limited editions portraits for the Hall’s 2017 inductees class, consisting of Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters, and a Paralympian Monique Kalkman-van den Bosch.
In addition, Jeff, through his tennis and New England roots, developed a life time friendship with 94′ HOF inductee Bud Collins.
“He was the first person to take my art seriously, always inspiring me to keep pushing forward on this new journey”
Jeff would eventually produce a limited edition portrait of Bud Collins for the Hall.
These are exciting times for Jeff Sparr and his Peacelove.org creation. His organization is expanding all throughout the nation with opportunities to expand globally in the pipeline, as he begins to receive acknowledgement not just for the talent he is but for his commitment to give of himself in service to others.
There is a power about a person taking ownership of his life. Jeff has done just that. And in order to keep his rare gift, he is committed to giving it away. I asked Jeff if he could sum up his work in one sentence.
“I create peace of mind.”
We all could use a good dose of that.
If you are interested in supporting the Peacelove Organization, Here is their contact information