To Top

Meet Julie McKevitt of Paint Love in Scottdale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Julie McKevitt.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I didn’t recognize it at the time, but, the arts were such a seamless part of my upbringing. My grandmother was a painter and my parents encouraged me to explore my creativity, from giving me free reign over the walls in my room, allowing them to become my canvases, to putting me in dance classes. As I got older and had the opportunity to share both dance and painting with young audiences, I realized just how important and impactful the arts had been in my life and can be for so many others. From boosting self-confidence and compassion to improving behavior and academic success, the arts have been proven to have incredible benefits for all students. I started working with groups of at-risk youth and witnessed first-hand the transformative power the arts can have, specifically in circumstances of trauma. While witnessing this great impact, I realized access to the arts is often limited for those who could benefit from it the most.

In April of 2014, my husband, Aaron and I started Paint Love to fill that gap and bring high-quality artistic programming to youth facing the difficulties of poverty and trauma. In starting Paint Love, we set out to solve one problem, (bringing access to high-quality artistic programs to youth facing adversity), but we recognized two other unique problems that Paint Love could collectively solve: 1. Wonderful nonprofits already serving youth in need wanted artistic programming, but lacked the resources and connections and 2. Many artists want to use their talents to serve and give back but do not have the time or funding to find and plan service opportunities.

So, Paint Love didn’t just provide access, we became a facilitator and a curator at the same time. We funded all the projects and carefully curated the programs by connecting artists with nonprofits and Title 1 schools to put on high-quality artistic experiences, positively impacting youth.

Our model worked and we quickly had a waiting list of organizations and volunteers that wanted to work with us. It has been such a fun, challenging, and rewarding journey. We are so excited that Paint Love is about to celebrate its fifth anniversary. This year is a particularly monumental one for us because Paint Love is gaining a new and incredible director. Laura Shaw, our operations manager, will become Paint Love’s executive director this year. She brings a wealth of experience, passion, and a strong strategic vision to the role. I will have the privilege to serve as the board chair as Paint Love moves into a new phase of growth and impact. It is a huge honor to know that this idea has been accepted by an amazing community of artists, volunteers, nonprofits, and donors and will continue to impact youth for years to come.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road hasn’t been smooth, but it has been full of a lot of joy. We get to provide amazing artistic programs to youth in need while working with some of the best artists and nonprofits in this city! It’s a dream and that is the part that gets you through the challenges of running a nonprofit, which most often revolve around fundraising.
As a nonprofit solely based on donations, we need incredibly generous people, foundations, and corporations behind us to provide all our operational programs. Paint Love has such a generous base of donors, but we have struggled to grow fast enough to keep up with the demand that has been put on our programming. It’s a great challenge to have, but as the executive director, it has been my biggest hurdle.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Paint Love story. Tell us more about the business.
At Paint Love, we utilize the power of the arts to make an impact on youth who are facing some of life’s most difficult circumstances, including domestic violence, homelessness, sexual exploitation and trafficking, living in the foster care system, traumatic health conditions, and the death of a parent or sibling.

We connect Title 1 Schools and local nonprofits with our team of professional volunteer artists, then, working closing with the staff from our partners and our artists, we carefully curate programs that address the specific needs of the students we serve. These custom projects last from several hours to weeks or even months. We draw on the research-supported therapeutic qualities of art to help children, teens, and young adults to process adversity and discover their inner strengths.

What started out as six programs in 2014 has turned into one of Atlanta’s most sought-after, trauma-informed art programs for youth, with more than 220 events since our founding.

2019 will be a year that defines us. We plan to provide our 300th programming day, serve our 10,000th student, and continue being a leader for change in the Atlanta area.

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
I think Paint Love falls into two important sectors that will continue to have a lot of momentum in terms of research and popularity: 1. The arts and 2. The arena of mental health, particularly around the idea of trauma-informed care/programming.

I think the arts will continue to contribute significantly to the US economy and take over an even larger percentage of the GDP, while also demonstrating measurable benefits to the individuals, including children, that engage with and practice artistic mediums. At the same time, I think we will continue to see a shift in the US’s attention on the importance of mental health. Paint Love works specifically with youth that have faced trauma, and addressing trauma has become a public health priority under the SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) Trauma and Justice Strategic Initiative. I think more research will continue to be done on the subject of childhood trauma and trauma-informed care, which will be incredibly beneficial to any child-serving organization, including Paint Love.

Overall, the positive trends in the industry where Paint Love works is a huge win for the youth we serve. As the arts become more and more popular, I believe more youth in need will be given access and at the same time, the organizations that serve youth, will have a stronger understanding of trauma-informed care and be able to elevate their programming to better fit the needs of children and teens who have faced trauma. It’s an exciting and wonderful time to be a part of this work and this industry.


  • $12 donation sponsors one student to attend a Paint Love program
  • $100 donation covers the cost of fine art paper and/or painting supplies for up to 100 students
  • $250 donation sponsors an entire Paint Love program for a small class or nonprofit group

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Paint Love, Lydia Mays, and Amber Wilburn

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in