Discovering the Healing Powers of Creativity
PRA Health Sciences
PRA Health Sciences

PRA is proud to sponsor next week's RARE Patient Advocacy Summit with Global Genes. This educational conference brings rare advocates from across the globe together to connect, collaborate, and activate.

This year, we're excited to host a collaborative art project for attendees. Participants will receive a large puzzle piece to decorate any way they would like using the many supplies available. Then, each piece will be placed together to create a massive wall illustrating hope in the puzzling world of rare diseases.

The artist behind this project is Timothy Kelly, who has brought this experience to groups around the country:

Visit Tim online and see more puzzle art at: The Puzzle Art Installation and Collaborative Project.

Tell us about the puzzle art project. How did it get started?

In 2009, I was teaching art classes to families of The David S. Zocchi Brain Tumor Center ( My program is called, “Art is Good, about ART & YOU.” An artist named Cheryl, who lost her husband to a brain tumor, loved attending my classes with her family. She worked with The Monmouth County Arts Council and had them come observe us. MCAC was running a teen arts festival and wanted to hire an artist to coordinate a collaborative project at the festival. Luckily, I got hired and we created the Puzzle Project. I wrapped my personal Art is Good philosophy around it. It was a hit and the rest is artful history…

What do you enjoy most about this work?

For as long as I can remember, creativity and art have always been there for me. When times are good or times are tough, expressing myself with creativity has always been cathartic. The beauty of art is you can make it at any time, anywhere, out of anything, about anything… for yourself or for a living. There are very few things in life that can say that. Art is good for you. When I work with artists, communities, schools, support groups, senior centers and corporations; seeing people love art brings me artsolute happiness. Helping people to recognize that art is there for them and already in them, is why I am on this beautiful planet.

Puzzle mobtsg 1

I’m sure you have people who say, “Oh, I can’t do that I’m not an artist!” How do you get people comfortable with the process?

To this I respond, you don’t have to be an artist… you just have to have something to say. The Puzzle Project is a human expression project. If you are a writer, write on your puzzle piece… if you are a photographer, affix your photos to a piece… if you are a poet, wax poetically on a puzzle piece… If you love music, make your piece about the lyrics to your favorite song… use scissors & glue and collage on a piece. Make YOUR puzzle piece about a person, place, thing or idea that is meaningful to YOU. The blank puzzle piece is whatever you want it to be. Just express yourself and make something meaningful to you. The important thing is to have fun and not make too big of a deal about it. Art is good for you silly (:

How do you think people benefit from being part of a puzzle art project?

The puzzle project offers a robust experience: 1). You go on a “Creative Journey.” You think about what you are thinking. We take the Socratic Method approach… ask yourself: What is it all about? What is meaningful to me? How can I express this? 2). You create something meaningful. 3). If you make your puzzle piece with others, you enjoy the shared creative experience… which is beautiful. 4). Then we put the pieces together to create a big piece of art that tells “a story of us.” We celebrate this art, look at it and discuss and think about it. When finished puzzle piece, the puzzle maker, and a person looking at it come together, I call it “The Art-Love-Triangle.” The dialog and discussion about the “What” and “Why” and “How” of each puzzle piece completes the creative journey. It started with a thought and ended in a big artful collaborative piece of jigsaw art. Pretty cool. 360 degrees. Robust.

Puzzle fav denise

Are some people surprised/moved by what they create?

Yes! Participant are often pleasantly surprised. If you look at the photos on or our Facebook and Instagram pages, you see focused, smiling people creating their puzzle pieces…as well as proud people holding their finished piece. Art is good for you!

Tim kelly01

I know you work with many people who are facing health challenges. How does art help healing?

Art heals, that is a fact. Creating something meaningful is a deep experience that often leads you to a place you had not been before. During my healing arts workshops, participants take what is inside them and express it. Personally, I just lost my big brother and a few years ago I lost my Dad. I dove into my art. I created collage portraits for my own catharsis. The creative process was for me, but I made the art for my Mother and sister-in-law. The artist Georgia O’Keefe said something like, “I can say things with shapes and colors in my art that I could never say with words. Art sometimes speaks in a language that transcends words, when people have no words for how they feel. During healing arts workshops, I think people find comfort that they are not alone in their challenge. No one has to talk about it, because “IT” is why you are there. So we just create together and beautiful things happen. Art heals!

What do you hope people will take away with them from the experience at the Global Genes summit?

That you are not alone. Your life and your challenges are unique, difficult and real. If you express this with your puzzle art, you may help others to feel comfort in the fact that many are fighting a battle. My hope is that from initially “Thinking about what they are thinking,” through the creative process and onto the final assembled puzzle installation celebration – each participant grows and heals… even if just a little. If afterward participants decide to buy a sketchbook or coloring book and make art in the future, that is what it is all about. Art heals. Art is good for you.

Tell us about your big installation project in NYC.

There are more than 13,000 puzzle pieces created by thousands of people from around the world. Each piece is different, just like each of us. 99.99% of the projects participants found me. I rarely ask people to participate, but always try to help people that want to. We have exhibited thousands at the same time on more than a dozen occasions. The accumulation of pieces has become so large, that we are working toward a massive world-record setting exhibition in NYC. It will require a lot of time and space. I believe it is the largest (in square meters) assembled installation of jigsaw art in the world. This a challenge, but it will happen. We are working on sponsorships and partnership opportunities to bring this big puzzle installation to fruition. It is my passion project and there is no quit in me… the massive event will be a world art sensation. It will tell a story of us all, which is a beautiful story to tell (:

Danny boy collage