Guest Blog: Vets Explore Self-Expression Through Art

By: Kristen Hughes
Director of Arts in Healing
The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts

Support from the Disabled Veterans National Foundation has enabled Arts in Healing to provide 10-12 hours per week of visual art, music, creative writing, drama and dance to veterans served through the Robley Rex VA Medical Center and to test-drive the concept for a veteran/civilian cooperative called “Warrior’s Heart Community.”

A community member viewing artwork created by veterans in Warriors’ Heart Community pilot project

Warrior’s Heart Community recently completed a highly successful 9 week pilot project, based on steps outlined in The Warrior’s Return, by Dr. Ed Tick of Soldier’s Heart. The process involved veterans sharing stories about their combat experiences and ensuing struggles with civilians who listened non-judgmentally and without attempting to fix or offer advice, serving as Sacred Witnesses to the wounding, and creating a space for healing. In this atmosphere of trust, respect, and empathy, participants explored how all of humanity is affected by war. It was a powerful and profound experience for all.  Over 75% of participants have signed on to help refine the process over the winter so that the community can grow by engaging a new group of veterans and civilian “witnesses” in Spring 2016.

In November, Arts in Healing also partnered with Robley Rex VA Medical Center to present local veteran art at an opening of the From War to Home national photo exhibit.  At the event, art was displayed from Arts in Healing groups in the Substance Abuse Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program, the Inpatient Psychiatric Unit, Athena’s Sisters-a female veterans’ sisterhood, Heroes Create-a Peer Support dialogue group, and Warriors’ Heart Community.

Nathan Sims, Peer Support Specialist of Heroes Create! sharing artwork created by veterans in the group.