Combat Medic to Ceramic Artist: Art as Therapy

 

I’m a disabled (differently-abled) Operation: Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Veteran who found clay after my medical retirement from the US Army in 2011, where I served as a combat medic. It has turned into a business, a passion, and my art has taken on a new purpose. I am passionate about how much my sculpting has helped me and I have an even deeper passion for sharing this amazing self-care concept/activity with as many people as I can. It is important to remember that art therapy is very different than art as therapy, which I teach and practice for self-care. I feel that the daily activities we do at home for self-care can be just as important as the work done in the therapist’s office. We must learn to be okay with taking our health into our own hands, including our mental health. It’s up to each and every one of us to advocate for what we know is in our best interest.

It is important to remember that art therapy is very different than art as therapy. 

Schools Must Be Safe Places for Students to Learn and Pursue Their Passions

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A nation plagued by school shootings watched the horror play out yet again in Southeast Texas when eight Santa Fe High School students and two teachers were killed and 10 others were wounded recently in the worst school shooting since the February assault on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Many of these victims were in an arts classroom making art at the time. Schools must be safe places for students to learn and pursue their passions in the arts and beyond. 

Veterans Supporting Each other Through the Arts

Denver’s VFW Post 1 Commissions Glass Poppies from Tacoma’s Museum of Glass “Hot Shop Heroes”

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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Michael Mitchel, post commander of VFW Post 1 in Denver, Colorado commissioned 100 glass poppies from Hot Shop Heroes at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 2018. The poppies will be available for purchase to support the revival and renovation of Denver’s VFW Post 1, our country’s oldest Veterans of Foreign Wars post and home of the only VFW Post Veterans Arts Council.

A Conversation with Kansas Pioneer Laura Ramberg

Laura Ramberg is a ceramicist, sculptor, and dancer who has been working as an artist in the Lawrence, Kansas community for the past 40 years. A true innovator and creative pioneer, she has taught art classes three times a week at the Douglas County Juvenile Detention Center in Lawrence for two decades. Working with literally hundreds of students over 20 years, she has witnessed fluctuations in policy, changes in facilities, and the digital revolution in youth culture. She has experienced firsthand how art can help people in crisis in the moment, but also how it can change their lives. Arts Education Council member Margaret Weisbrod Morris sat down with Laura to hear about her experiences working with incarcerated youth.

VSA Texas Distinguished Artist Veterans: A State of Arts & Military Outreach

VSA Texas works with people with disabilities as they access the arts. This can be as a patron of the arts or as an artist. Through our Artworks: Creative Industries program, we meet artists where they are in their hobby or career and act as a resource to move them to where they want to be in that hobby or career. My challenge is to find out what the barriers are for our artists and find ways for each of them to work through those barriers to reach their personal goals. In 2009, we noticed a barrier for Veteran artists within our own services. Veterans in our community were not identifying as artists with disabilities, so they were not entering our art exhibitions or attending our workshops and events. Rather than trying to change their viewpoints, we adapted ours and started programming specifically for Veterans.

The Falling and The Rising

US Army Field Band Connects Civilians and Soldiers Through Opera

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

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"The Falling and the Rising" is a new American opera based on the true stories of dozens of active duty soldiers and veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, The Old Guard at Fort Myer, and Fort Meade, Maryland. The opera chronicles the imagined journey inside the mind of a soldier following traumatic brain injuries suffered during a roadside attack, and was first proposed by a tenor in the Soldiers’ Chorus, Staff Sgt. Ben Hilgert.

Ten Reasons to Support the Arts in 2018

The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts are also a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times. The arts are all about stories—often small, always meaningful. This advocacy season, find your stories and pair them with the research-based findings in the “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.” Yours will be an advocacy visit that is not soon forgotten.

Eight for 2018: New Obstacles and Opportunities in the Arts

Over the first quarter of 2018 I’ve had the great opportunity to spend time listening to the wisdom of my colleagues in the field. From these gatherings, I continue to see first-hand the spectacular array of work and service offered by the non-profit arts community in our country. It is a vibrant, effective, optimistic, inciteful, and growing field that uplifts our communities across the country. Despite challenges in funding and support, the creativity of our arts field surges forward. There are new benchmarks to celebrate and new obstacles to overcome, all leading I hope to new opportunities for the arts. Here are eight observations for 2018.

The Art Is What Heals!

Now in the middle of its fourth year, the Cincinnati Arts Association's Arts in Healing Initiative is integrating performing and visual arts in medical and non-traditional settings. Its mission is to promote community wellness and encourage our community to explore the arts as an active part of healing and ongoing wellness. When asked to write a blog about the program, I questioned if I could give justice to the stories of these artists, and the administrators, medical partners, and participants of the Initiative. Then I remembered the lesson I’ve learned: even the developer of such a program should see herself as a primary participant, too. I’ve had to ask and answer every question, face every barrier, plan and discover the founding perspective: who will the programand the art, impact? First and foremost, this journey requires a belief that art changes lives.

The Positive Power of Art

Everyone should have access to making their life better and living a healthy life. This is where we can all make a difference: advocating to make the benefits of creative activity, arts education, and arts experiences more openly accessible to more people. You might be surprised to know that the arts and health have over 100 years of partnership. Visual art, music, dance, creative writing, dramatic play, and theater have been used for decades to enhance individual experience in hospitals, mental health treatment centers, senior care facilities, emergency rooms, occupational therapy clinics, in pediatric care, and more. Wherever people are in crisis—health or otherwise—creative activities are found. 

Music Therapy for Military Service Members in Alaska

Second Lady Karen Pence Visits Creative Forces Site at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson

Friday, February 9, 2018

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Second Lady Karen Pence recently visited Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, and observed a Creative Forces music therapy group session as part of her national and international initiative, Art Therapy: Healing with the HeART.

Brush, Breath and Line: A Veteran’s Recovery through the Arts

I am a US Army veteran, artist, teacher, creative soul guide, and like all of us—a work in progress. With all of these things that I feel I am, I know that being of service to others has been and will always be a thread in the tapestry of my life. The many journeys within my life always bring new challenges, self-awareness, and growth. It's been 20 years since my first battle with suicidal ideation and major depression. I've had some relapses since then, but with each fight, insights surface and propel me to more self-discovery and deeper healing. It wasn't until after my last relapse four years ago that I discovered what my “service to others” would be, and that my journey of healing through creativity would be born.

Dance for Brain and Body Health

As an undergraduate student at Wake Forest University studying Health and Exercise Science and aspiring to be a future physical therapist, I was excited when I learned about a pioneering Parkinson’s Disease dance class developed by Associate Professor of Dance Christina Soriano, which is now trademarked as her own IMPROVment™ method. Soriano has crafted a pedagogy of improvisational dance movement that aims to improve the mobility, balance, and overall health of older adults, giving participants a beautiful and joyous way to practice how to handle the challenges that a life with Parkinson’s—or any neurodegenerative disease—brings. 

Volunteers = Impact

For those who are on the ground working directly with communities, we know our work simply cannot be done without a number of partners, including donors; local, state, and federal government; other organizational partners; and of course, the children and families themselves. I’d like to shine a light on one of Pablove’s most important constituents—our volunteers—and discuss why they are so instrumental to the work that we do in the healing arts.

Museums and Creative Aging

In the United States, 1 in 10 adults age 65 and older has Alzheimer’s dementia. As the size of the U.S. population age 65 and older continues to increase, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s or other dementias will escalate rapidly. Although cultural institutions have created programs for this population for many years, how these programs are created—how educators are intentional in the works of art they select for the program, how much research and evaluation is put into a session, etc.—are growing and becoming more substantial. So, how are we doing it? And are these programs effective?

Why I support Americans for the Arts

The arts are important to me, and if you’re reading this, I bet they’re important to you too. I know you’ll agree that the arts help communities heal, learn, and grow. And that’s why I'm proud to support Americans for the Arts: because they help make it possible for arts organizations and artists in communities all over the country to do what they do better, through education, advocacy, professional development, case-making research, and more. I hope you'll join me.

Looking Back and Moving Forward—Supporting Our Veterans Through the Arts

November is Veterans Month, a time to celebrate, honor, and reflect on the contributions of the men and women who have served our country in peacetime and in conflict. Earlier this month, I made my way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for their 14th Annual Healing Arts Exhibit and Symposium, where I was met by the champion of this effort, Captain Moira G. McGuire, and had an opportunity to explore the art on display. My job there was to give the opening speech about the long history of connection between the arts and the military going all the way back to the days of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, but being surrounded by the incredible artwork produced by the wounded, ill, and injured members of the armed services and their families was the real benefit of being there.

2017 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival

Art from the Veteran's Heart

Monday, November 6, 2017

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Nationwide, VA medical facilities use the creative arts as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help Veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities. Across the country each year, Veterans enrolled at VA health care facilities compete in a local creative arts competition that began in January.

“I write because it is healing, and creativity is the opposite of war.” Peter Bourret, AZ, USMC, Gold Medal category - Poetry

UPDATED! Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts for National Arts & Humanities Month

October is National Arts & Humanities Month, a time to celebrate and champion the arts locally and nationally. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts are also a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times. The effective arts advocate needs a full quiver of case-making arrows to articulate the value of the arts in as many ways as possible—from the passionately inherent to the functionally pragmatic. To help fill your quiver, I offer an updated Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.

Photographer and Pablove Shutterbug Cameron of New Orleans Drops #TruthBombs about Arts Education and Cancer

From my interview with 16-year-old student and Pablove Shutterbug Cameron Washington: “Photography came when I was going through a hard time in my life with cancer. When I started it, it brought me into a different world and into seeing different things with a deeper meaning. It helped me learn how to tell a story and say things without using words. It helped me see where I was in the world. I feel like art is really important because you can express a side of yourself that you normally wouldn’t feel comfortable sharing with strangers.”

“To My Fellow Combat Veterans”

I taught theatre in Lee’s Summit, MO for many years and had the privilege to work with many wonderful students. One of them I truly treasured was Richard Gibson, who went on to enlist in the Marines after high school and serve his country with honor. Richard wrote a letter in response to the budget situation facing the Missouri Legislature this year. From his words, I hope all elected officials realize the value of the arts in education. Adequate funding for schools keep arts programs alive. Public investment in arts agencies allows institutions in large cities and rural communities alike to provide arts opportunities for their citizens.

Youth Finding a Voice, Finding a Stage

Excerpted from my interview with Xavier Harvey: “What I’ve noticed being an actor and being involved with Actors’ Shakespeare Project is the tools that art gives you is learning more to express yourself. So when you’re hit with a difficult angle at something and you don’t know how to go about it, you learn different ways to conquer those challenges and all those obstacles. And in my way and where I live and the people that I surround myself, I always think about if I was put in that position again, if I had an artist’s way of thinking then I would have taken these challenges different and made better choices in life.”

Statement on the Arts and the Recovery of Communities After Disasters

Monday, September 11, 2017

Community recovery in the aftermath of disasters—such as the major hurricanes, fires, and floods in August and September—is a crucial challenge, and the arts have a strong role to play. Americans for the Arts calls on local, state, and federal decisionmakers and government agencies—particularly FEMA and the Small Business Administration—to recognize the crucial role of arts and cultural organizations and workers, and to prioritize immediate and streamlined disaster relief assistance so that they may fulfill their role as healing nexus points for affected communities.

Tennessee Shakespeare Company Partners with the Memphis VA Medical Association

Healing through Theatre Practices

Friday, September 1, 2017

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In August 2017, the Tennessee Shakespeare Company began working with Veterans at the Memphis VA Medical Association. This program brings together service Veterans with theatre practitioners to use the plays of Shakespeare in addressing combat-related traumatic and re-integration issues.

Dare County Arts Council - Outer Banks Veterans Writing Project (VWP)

OBX Veterans Week in North Carolina

Friday, September 1, 2017

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The OBX Veterans Week is a collaborative event on the Outer Banks of North Carolina that celebrates Veterans, active-duty military and their families through the arts. Founded in 2013, the event is in its fifth year and is scheduled to take place November 3-12, 2017.  OBX Veterans Week is organized by Dare County Arts Council in Manteo, NC.

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