The power of art: helping veterans heal

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COLORADO SPRINGS — Art takes on a whole new meaning in this classroom at the Fine Arts Center.

“The art doesn’t lie. It shows where you are today emotionally, spiritually, psychologically,” said Kim Nguyen, art therapist for Bemis School of Art at Colorado College.

For the past 10 years, this Military Artistic Healing Class has built a community.

“I get in my own little world, in a sense. So, it’s a comfort zone for me, knowing that everybody here is looking to overcome their adversities and better themselves,” said Brian Reed, an art therapy student who served two years with the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Veterans who suffer from PTSD, depression or traumatic brain injury can use art to express themselves.

“This is a very holistic and healing, not that you don’t need medication, but it can replace medication,” said Nguyen.

“I think the fact that it gives us the ability to release our stress and to connect with other veterans because some of us are kind of closed in and you know, don’t like being around other people. And this gives us a chance to do that,” said Debra Taylor, an art therapy student who served four years in the U.S. Army.

Veterans in the classroom build a bond with each other through their past experiences in the military and work together on the traumas they faced.

“Just learning different techniques on how to approach life situations, breathing techniques, being able to recognize situations and not let your stresses overwhelm your daily life you know. So, just realizing that there is another alternative than getting stressed,” Reed said.

The art speaks for itself.

“First of all, I see hope. Because through the art, they learn to see possibilities. So, if they did something and they don’t look like it, they can cover it up, tear it up and do it again until they get it right. So, they problem solve in the painting and then it translates into life,” Nguyen said.

“My message for other veterans is to reach out to each other and be there for each other. We don’t even have to know each other’s story. We just connect because we’ve all been in the military,” Taylor said.

Click here to learn more about the free Military Artistic Healing classes.

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