In 2007, Aaron Plaat lost his 51-year-old father to cancer. Though the pain remains, Aaron found healing through painting. “I often feel his presence when I paint,” says Aaron, “Which comes out through the artistic expression of each stroke.” In his father’s memory, Aaron created 51movement, where 51% of every painting sold goes to charities. He picks nonprofits like Portland Rescue Mission that help people in the neighborhood who are struggling.
His art began as a labor of love. Aaron was working in the tech industry but felt pulled to help others while doing something he loved. “I’ve worked with the homeless for several years,” Aaron recalls. “Through firsthand experience of the work they do, I recognized Portland Rescue Mission’s values align with my own and I wanted to find some way to benefit them.”
Hardship is one thing that Aaron is familiar with. When asked about his favorite paintings, Aaron told how his two favorites outline his own journey from despair to hope.
“My favorite piece is actually a pair of paintings, which tell of my own brush with suicide and the one person who made the difference in my life to help; my brother, Steve.”
Aaron remembers the darkest day of his life.
“In 2015, I walked to the front door of my house to grab a red dog leash. I was planning on hanging myself that morning.”
“As I walked to my closet to commit the deed, I looked at my kitchen counter and saw my phone there.” Aaron remembers. “A little voice screamed at me to call my brother, Steve. For over two hours, Steve talked with me on the phone and eventually asked me if I’d be willing to move to California and work with him.”
Aaron describes how these pieces of art captured that day, “Both of these pieces capture the details that happened on that morning., The first piece, Desiderata, represents the red dog leash on the top part of the painting, while also displaying the beautiful new life that came after walking through the day.”
“The second piece, Lifeline, is more reflective of the dark beauty that comes when you descend into your own soul. That morning, Steve was there to save my life and be very patient with me while I worked through decades of pent-up pain.”
Aaron explains the hope he has now, “Four years later, I now speak freely about this experience after years of loving care, counseling, and simply learning when to ask for help from others.”
Through his own life lessons, Aaron has created a movement that not only heals his heart but can help the people around him. Encountering struggling people in the Portland area has changed his life. He remembers a recent encounter with a pizza delivery woman who came to his home. Aaron invited her to look at his work. She became emotional after he started talking about his heart for the homeless.
“She shared that she was recently homeless and had just moved into her first apartment after being homeless,” Aaron says. He remembers immediately asking her to pick out her favorite piece to take it home. Encounters like these have allowed Aaron to heal and in turn offer healing to others. Donating a portion of his proceeds to Portland Rescue Mission allows Aaron to use his beautiful artwork to heal and spread gratitude from his own heart into the heart of others.