art. speak. heal: Honoring Veteran Stories

January 13, 2014

It is an honor to be helping Ursuline College’s Art Therapy and Counseling Program with this February event:

art. speak.heal: Honoring Veteran StoriesUrsuline College’s Graduate Art Therapy and Counseling Program, in collaboration with Cuyahoga Community College’s Division of Arts and Sciences, announces its 14th annual arts and healing exhibition at Tri-C Gallery East. This year the exhibition, art. speak. heal: Honoring Veteran Stories will focus on veterans, their families, and the creative arts.  The exhibit is also co-sponsored by the Buckeye Art Therapy Association and Cleveland Foundation.

 Submitting art work for this exhibition is open until January 23 and 24.  More information about entering art can be found here.

I’ve been helping with getting works from the Peace Paper Project for the show and grateful to Drew and Margaret for sending some of the handmade paper made in 2013 Veteran Paper Workshops:

“Veteran Paper Workshop provides veterans with hand papermaking as a vehicle for self-expression and healing. Peace Paper Project facilitates Veteran Paper Workshop in collaboration with Art Therapists and Recreation Therapists to ensure that veterans experience the benefits of hand papermaking in supportive environments. Participants are invited to reconstitute their military uniforms into paper.”

art. speak. heal: Honoring Veteran Stories | creativity in motion

2013 Peace Paper

Also included in this exhibit are the work of two Florida State University art therapy students who helped host the Peace Paper Veteran workshop Drew, Margaret, and I facilitated in 2012 on campus for the FSU Department of Art Education/Art Therapy, FSU College Veteran Association and FSU Veteran’s Center.

Rachel Mims, a FSU art therapy graduate student and US Army Veteran contributed Peace Paper she made from her military uniforms and then overlayed with pulp printing of images from her training and deployment:

Rachel Mims (2012) Peace Paper: 2003 Deployment

Rachel Mims (2012) Peace Paper: 2003 Deployment

Rachel also submitted her very first art journal, a space that she used to cope with and manage her emotions and experiences related to her Medical Discharge from the Army and coping with life changing injuries she sustained during her service:

I used this art journal to help me get through all the difficult emotions that arose when I realized that my injury was not healing and I would be disabled for the rest of my life; this was the same time that my medical discharge from the Army began. I was supposed to lead by example but being injured meant I could not do most of what was required of me; this was very difficult for me mentally and emotionally – instead of being a great leader I was suddenly worthless (in the eyes of the Army at least!). The journal was my way of dealing with the difficult days and encouraging myself to keep going!”

Rachel Mims Art Journal Pages (2011)

Rachel Mims Art Journal Pages (2011)

Now in her Art Therapy Internship at FSU, Rachel, alongside with a music therapist will be providing student veterans with free music and art therapy as part of a project she’s helped create called The Veteran Creative Arts Therapy Initiative.

Meredith McMackin, a doctoral student in FSU’s Art Therapy Program, also submitted an image for the Ursuline/Tri-C Exhibit that she created during Peace Paper’s FSU workshop that honored her son who was killed in Iraq in 2007. Her handmade paper was made from the cloth of the dress she bought for his memorial service.

Titled Release, Meredith openly shares this in the piece’s powerful statement:

“…Cutting the dress into small squares, I released them into a vessel of water, which fed into a machine that slowly ground the fibers down to pulp.  I felt a sense of ease and peace watching the fibers dissolve the tightness of painful memories and float freely in the cleansing water…. The finished piece symbolizes my son’s release into spirit as well as my own transformation inspired by his self-less gift of life.”

You can read more about Meredith and her commitment to providing workshops at the FSU Veteran’s Center, as well as serving as a trained Peer Mentor for the Tragedies Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) in these two links. Meredith and Rachel are also presenting a workshop on Paper Making as Trauma Intervention for PTSD with Veterans at the 2014 Florida Art Therapy Association in early February.  It is inspiring to see the work of Peace Paper continue in the art therapy community!

Much gratitude to Drew & Margaret of Peace Paper, Rachel, and Meredith for contributing art for this exhibition, as well as sharing the personal stories and inspiring work behind the images that will be on display.  If you are in the NE Ohio area, the exhibit will be open through March 6 at Tri-C’s Gallery on the Eastern Campus. The Massillon Museum, The National Museum of Veterans Art, the Louis Stokes VA Medical Hospital, and more will also be part of this year’s exhibit.

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In addition to the art exhibition opening on February 13, there will be a free community lecture that evening by David Peacock, Therapeutic Director of Valor Home in Akron, Ohio and on the following day, a panel about the value and availability of arts and healing programs for veterans and families will be offered, as well as expressive therapies workshops.

I’m also honored to be part of the panel discussion to speak more about The Peace Paper Project, as well as offer a creative workshop with Art Therapist Laurel Larson, MPS, ATR who works for Volunteers of America in collaboration with the Cleveland VA providing art therapy services at the Veteran’s Domiciliary in Wade Park.

Our workshop on February 14, In Honor, Service, and Mission: Artist Challenge Coins (ACCs) is inspired by the tradition of Challenge Coins, commonly used in the military and within service organizations. A challenge coin is a small coin or medallion symbolizing achievement, membership, or recognition, as well as given to increase morale and community among belonging members.  In the spirit of Challenge Coins, workshop participants will create and exchange mixed media ACCs as tokens of affirmation, service, strength, gratitude, and encouragement.

art. speak. heal: Honoring Veteran Stories | creativity in motion

My Artist Challenge Coins (ACCs)

There will also be additional expressive therapies workshops to choose from focused on drama, creative writing,  storytelling, and healing facilitated by Expressive Therapist Dr. Lisa Peacock of the Women Warrior Project and Vet Art Ohio, as well as Dr. Shianne Eagelheart, LIC, Founder of The Redbird Center for Healing.  If you are a professional looking for continuing education, CEUs will be available.  To register, download the workshop form here.

I hope if you are in the NE Ohio area, you will join us to attend this special event on February 13 & 14 or visit the exhibit while it is on display.

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Related Posts:

Peace Paper: Papermaking, Art Therapy, and Social Action On the Move in 2012

Peacemaking & DIY Papermaking

Releasing and Reforming

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4 Responses to “art. speak. heal: Honoring Veteran Stories”

  1. baeuchlb Says:

    Hi Gretchen,

    I am always thankful for your posts! This one in particular of course…. And wishing I lived closer. I am constantly educating and exploring and discussing our incorporation of art therapy here at our Leavenworth VA. As I consider whether a full time position could be created here, I am also considering connecting more on my own with area resources. Would love to find a likeminded soul to create a studio space. This community is vital for service members and Veteran with Fort Leavenworth and the VA. I talked with Jon Turner for a while last year about coming this way but then he got involved with family and it didn’t sound like he could do much travelling.

    I love the challenge coin concept also. Is this a technique you could share? Also trying to plan for the AATA conference in San Antonio! Maybe I will see you there.

    Take care and have a great week! You are an inspiration J

    Barbara

  2. Hannah Says:

    A very inspiring project: healing through recycling the materials of war–truly a beating of swords into plowshares.


  3. Very inspiring project and process!! I agree with Hannah :) Thank you for sharing


  4. thanks Barbara, Hannah, and Lizzie for your reflections and thoughtful comments….. The concept of Artist Challenge Coins can be found via this info from Dick Blick: http://www.dickblick.com/lesson-plans/artists-challenge-coins-accs >> With the familiarity of Challenge Coins within the military and service organizations/groups, ACCs can be an inspiring art experience related to this for honoring strengths, gratitude, expressing affirmation, establishing safety, and more for the veteran community and other populations as well….. I hope this helps!


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