About Us

Healing through creative expression and community

The journey starts with art, but that's just the beginning. We spark creativity in underprivileged communities and inspire individuals to experience the joy of self-expression to improve quality of life.

Our Values

From young students to seniors, we have programs for everyone. Our programs, classes and events are designed to make participants feel calm and comfortable in creating art as individuals. We supply all of the art supplies needed for expression, but we also bring our empathy and work to make sure everyone is having a positive experience.



Promoting overall well-being, joy and a sense of achievement.



We honor the dignity of our artists.



Providing a welcoming environment that promotes personal expression, development and even healing.



Creativity and the gifts of our volunteers transform all of us and call together a generous community who can facilitate a positive change in the lives of others.



Promoting kindness, hospitality and support.



Building bridges and relationships with people in need that offer hope and opportunities for a better life.

Our History

Art for the Journey was initially an adult art instruction class until we noticed that many people who sought out painting classes weren't participating solely for instruction, but as a way of stepping back from a busy life or experiencing peace and perspective during a difficult time. It was a natural choice for us to see beyond art instruction and recognize the wonderful powers of creativity for well-being and even healing, making AFTJ the organization it is today.

We Teach Painting in a Prison

In Mark Hierholzer's art studio, relationships grow around the idea of bringing art-making benefits to women in prison. Those four people start the first art class at Virginia Correctional Center for Women in Goochland with eight incarcerated women.

Our Organization is Founded

The prison program is a wonderful success. A founding board of directors is formed and Art for the Journey becomes a nonprofit corporation on June 19, 2014.

First Children’s Program is Launched

At the invitation of The Carmel School in Ruther Glen, VA, a group of volunteers begin conducting a weekly painting class for students.

Staff and Funding Are Established

In April, Mark Hierholzer is hired by the board to be part-time President/CEO. By the end of 2015, $88,667 is raised to support staff, programs and operations.

New Partnership in Mental Health

Art for the Journey pilots a program for people with mental health challenges in partnership with Henrico County, led by artist and doctor, Steve Sawyer.

Older Adults with Dementia Make Art

Hierholzer and two volunteers are trained and certified in “Opening Minds through Art” (OMA). St. Mary’s Woods Retirement Community partners with us to launch the first OMA program in Virginia.

The Team Grows

To manage the growing number of programs, volunteers and VCU work-study students, Cindy Paullin is hired as part-time Volunteer Coordinator and Jamie Wigginton is hired as part-time Program Coordinator.

We Celebrate

In October, we celebrate the healing benefits of art in our community at our first annual Gala and Art Exhibit. By the end of 2016, our budget is at $125,000.

We Widen Our Reach to Youth and Elderly

Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School in Richmond's East End invites us to bring art to its underserved youth. Meanwhile, Art for the Journey becomes the first OMA training center outside Ohio.

The Community Bears Witness

Our programs are highlighted through the media and community presentations, and we exhibit program art at General Assembly through the “Abilities Caucus."

We Meet the Veterans

We develop specialized programming for veterans suffering combat-related disabilities, and partner with McGuire Holmes Veterans Affairs Hospital.

Our Space & Staff Expand

We move into The Frable Studio at Independence Golf Club. Our staff grows to include Melba Gibbs as Community Engagement Coordinator and Stephanie Shanks as Operations Coordinator. Our volunteer cohort is at 250 people.

The New Brand Is Launched

A new logo, new print materials, and new website by Veracity expresses the essence of our mission and captures the spirit of this beautiful community.


Our Partnership

Art for the Journey was founded by a small group of artists who discovered the power of art to transform their life experience and who simply wanted to share that with others. The sense of partnership and mutual support that defined our original group is now being shared with a growing community of volunteers who are spreading the impact of our mission to a growing population of people in our community. Our Board of Directors: Mark Hierholzer, President; Connie Hom, Treasurer; Dr. William J. Frable; Beverly Perdue Jennings; Nan Pascal; Nannette Bailey; Diana Robinson:

Mark Hierholzer

President & Founder

Mark spent over 40 years as a mental health professional, leading nonprofits that offered therapy for all ages. He led the development of a trauma treatment program for children that included a strong art therapy component. He became an oil painter in 2001, and has since garnered both local and statewide recognition as an artist and art instructor. Art-making was an important part of his own self-care, creating a place where he found peace, perspective and joy.

Cindy Paullin

Executive Director

Cindy’s background includes over a decade as an Account Executive with nationally known companies, managing over 13 million dollars in sales across the mid-eastern United States. Additionally, Cindy has managed the Paullin Law Firm, PC for 11 years. She now uses her leadership and business management experience to implement the vision of Art for the Journey. She has also long been a commissioned artist in a variety of media. Her broad experience serving in the community, along with her embracing love for people, has shaped the culture of AFJ from its inception.

Jamie Wigginton

Director of Programs

Jamie brings expertise as a former elementary educator, engaged volunteer, and commissioning artist. Her art portfolio includes interior design, decorative painting, ceramics, acrylics, and oils. Her passion to nurture the potential in others inspired our inaugural prison program. She delivers oversight for the now versatile programming, overcoming logistical obstacles and fostering relationships where it counts the most.

Melba Gibbs

Community Engagement Coordinator

Melba has served as Executive Director for homeless programs and on nonprofit boards for over 20 years. She was involved with the Virginia Federation of Women’s Clubs for 19 years and still advocates for those who face poverty and life challenges. Her commitment to helping people overcome barriers led her to connect the mission of Art for the Journey with the wide network of caring community members, government, and faith-based organizations. Her true belief is that there is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.

Stephanie Shanks

OMA Program Director

Stephanie Shanks is a Richmond, VA native and holds a BA in Painting. Her background includes K-12 art education, scenic design, event planning, and program administration for both local and national nonprofits. As an artist, educator, and certified OMA Facilitator, Stephanie's focus has always been fostering intergenerational community through the fine arts. She believes art, at its best, is a powerful equalizer and that everyone deserves a chance to create, connect and grow.

Lauren Paullin

Arts Education Specialist

For over ten years, Lauren has taught visual and performing arts to learners of all ages, in classrooms, museums, and non-profit settings around the world. A passionate advocate for arts integration and STEAM in K-12 learning, Lauren holds a Master’s in Arts in Education from Harvard University and was the inaugural Art Educator Fellow at the innovative Northstar School in Rajkot, India. With The Creative Corner, Lauren works to provide engaging, inspiring, and educational content to students and teachers from fourth grade through high school. The 25-minute program, which airs weekly on VPM Plus, is the 2021 honoree for the Central Virginia Dominion Energy ArtStars Award.

Nancy Engleman

Executive Assistant

Nancy brings a wide range of experience in both corporate and non-profit organizations. She has a background as a Manager of Corporate Communications for a systems integration company, an administrator for a non-profit, substance abuse rehabilitation center for teenagers, a mediator in the Albany, New York court system, a volunteer director, and coordinator of a corporate partnership that provided life skills training and job preparation for residents in a homeless shelter. Nancy volunteered for many years in several of our programs before joining the staff of Art for the Journey. She finds great joy from engaging with people to encourage healing through her love of art.

Community Partners

We don't do this work alone, but as a team. Our community includes not only hundreds of volunteers from the community and from local universities, but many other organizational and institutional partners who share our vision for a world where artistic expression heals the body, mind and soul.