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June 15, 2023 | Shannon Smith

Canvas Can Do Miracles is changing lives one painting at a time

What started as a nonprofit helping those with substance abuse now helps people of all ages and backgrounds through the power of art.

“And if the wind is right, you can sail away and find tranquility. Oh, the canvas can do miracles.”

That’s a lyric from the song ‘Sailing’ by Christopher Cross. But when Jackie Holloway heard that song, she didn’t picture the canvas of a sail. Instead, she saw the canvas of an artist.

“That song really spoke to me as a little girl, and that’s where I got the name,” she said.

The name of her art-based nonprofit in Knoxville, that is. It’s called Canvas Can Do Miracles (CCDM). Holloway started the organization in 2008 as a free art program for people struggling with substance abuse. She knows both the power of art and the hurt of addiction well.

“I was addicted to crack cocaine for 12 years,” said Holloway. It’s an addiction that began after the death of her parents, who both fostered a love of art in her. “My artwork kind of helped me to understand that I could be free from that substance.”

Jackie Holloway, Founder of Canvas Can Do Miracles. Credit: Jackie Holloway.

Holloway now has a family of her own, including four children, 12 grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. And she’s spread the mission of Canvas Can Do Miracles from just people with substance abuse struggles to anyone looking for an outlet.

“As we started that process of forming for individuals dealing with substance abuse, we found that families wanted their kids or grandma, everybody to do art,” said Holloway. “So right now we have a program that speaks to the youth. It’s called our Opportunity Youth Violence Prevention Program.”

This is where students ages 12 to 17 can train to be assistant art teachers, and those ages 18 to 29 can train to be full art teachers. These artists then teach classes to both kids and adults at the four facilities where CCDM hosts programs: The Boys & Girls Club of Walter P. Taylor Homes, The Boys & Girls Club at Western Heights, The Wesley House Community Center, and Cokesbury United Methodist Church Fig Tree.

These programs reach many parts of Knoxville, and Holloway said they train students from across the city.

“The kids are having the same issues everywhere in Knoxville, and those are related to mental health,” she said.

CCDM partners with Covenant Counseling and Consultation Services which is run by Holloway’s sister Donna Mitchell, a licensed social worker.

“We collaborate together, and she comes into my art class and the kids get to meet Miss Donna,” said Holloway. “And if they want to talk then they can go outside and have a chat or set up appointments later.”

People of all ages can benefit from or volunteer with the nonprofit. Credit: CCDM.

Holloway noted that art is therapeutic in many ways, for both the student teachers and those who are taking classes and expressing their feelings through their creations.

“When you’re dealing with substance abuse, or dealing with any kind of at-risk situation, you need to talk. You need to get those feelings out. You need to express yourself,” said Holloway. “Whatever the issue is, we feel like art can be that component that saves your life and gives you a new direction into a better life. That’s why Canvas Can Do Miracles even exists.”

While Holloway’s passion is strong, she knows she could increase the business aspect of her nonprofit, so she applied and was accepted into Cohort 7 of  100Knoxville, an initiative to help double the revenue of local Black-owned businesses through the investment of time, talent, and access to social, political, and financial capital. 100Knoxville’s goal is to help Black-owned businesses in Knoxville grow by $10,000,000 in five years.

“100Knoxville gave me a lot of valid and pertinent information that I’m putting into practice now to hopefully be able to be more effective and be more streamlined as we make our way in this process of growth as a nonprofit,” said Holloway.

Her goal is for CCDM to be back in its own space instead of only operating at local community centers. The owner of their previous space sold the building and they’re continuing to look for a new home. “We really would love to have our own main location that we can have people coming in and out all day long doing art,” said Holloway.

Until then, she’ll continue to make CCDM more prominent in the community. Right now, students have their art on display at Oak Ridge National Laboratory as part of its Juneteenth celebration. The public is invited to the Knoxville Botanical Gardens Saturday, June 17, where CCDM art will be on display as part of a separate Juneteenth celebration.

Holloway will take any opportunity to highlight and help the kids who participate in CCDM’s programs. Any student interested in becoming a teacher or assistant teacher can apply for the summer program now, which starts in July.

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