Just because something is broken, doesn’t mean it should be discarded. Pieces can be repurposed into something beautiful and meaningful, something whole once more.
As an artist who specializes in mosaics Dawn Mendelson believes the medium, which is the painstaking process of piecing together irregular fragments of glass, stone and ceramics to form a unique composition, offers Veterans struggling with trauma and depression a means to heal.
“It’s a way to process the trauma. You’re showing that it’s not a bad thing when something breaks. You can take that and create a new kind of beauty,” Mendelson said. “The process is very meditative. Each piece becomes important, so it forces you to slow down. You forget your troubles and the stress, and you just focus on putting down the next piece.”
Mendelson is the program director for nonprofit Piece by Piece. Her team is leading a series of artistic visioning workshops at West LA VA with Veterans interested in designing a new mural to adorn the Purple (D Line) subway station being erected at the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Bonsall Avenue.
The Veteran workshops and resulting mural are being funded by the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LA Metro), which entered into an agreement with VA to extend the subway, providing Veterans and VA staff with another affordable means of transportation.
To sign up for the mural workshops, which will be held at the Bandini Heroes Golf Course Patio, 11301 Wilshire Blvd., Veterans should call (213) 459-1420 or email workshop coordinator Jadie Delgado of Piece by Piece at email@example.com. The first workshop was Sept. 27, 2022. They continue every other Tuesday from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m., through January 2023. For directions to the golf course patio type in "Heroes Golf Course" in your maps program, or take Wilshire Blvd. to the VA/ Bonsall exit and head North on Bonsall Ave. until it ends, then turn right on MacArthur.
Metro Veterans Legacy Art Project
October 11, 25
December 6, 20
January 3, 10, 17, 31
The mosaic borne out of these workshops will honor a section of the “National Veterans Mural” by artist and U.S. Navy Veteran Peter Stewart, dedicated in 1995, a portion of which will be decommissioned during the construction of the future Westwood/VA Hospital station. This decommissioned section of the original mural, which cannot be relocated due to the age and condition of the wall, is currently painted on the off-ramp wall from westbound Wilshire Boulevard to Bonsall Avenue.
The majority of the over 23,000-square-foot mural, will remain and be protected in place during construction. For a presentation on the mural project and what will be preserved, please click HERE.
Once it is fabricated, the new mosaic artwork will be installed on a free-standing wall on the north side of the off-ramp, directly across the street from the original site of the mural.
“This project is important for preservation of historical events and artwork. It is continuing the legacy that was created by Peter Stewart and honors his work and our Veterans,” said Veterans Legacy Art Project panelist Jennifer La Vita, an artist and U.S. Army Veteran. “The future artwork will be an updated homage that will allow it to live on for many more years in mosaic form.”
For VA and LA Metro it was imperative to include Veterans in the artistic process and produce an impactful mural that honors Veterans and recognizes their valiant service, while also contributing to LA’s rich collection of public art.
Earlier this summer, commissioned Westwood/VA Hospital station artist Francesco Simeti led a two-day art-making workshop for Veterans who live on the campus of the VA. The workshop was a collaboration between Metro Art, the West LA VA Medical Center and the UCLA Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden.
Simeti plans to incorporate elements of the Veterans’ artworks into his design for the future ticketing area of the Westwood/VA Hospital station. The idea is to bring a sense of shared ownership to the public artwork once it is installed at the station.
Research supports the effectiveness of creative arts therapies interventions in many areas, including overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement. Creative arts therapies further help patients to increase motivation to become engaged in treatment, provide emotional support for Veterans and their families, and create an outlet for expression of feelings. Research results and clinical experiences attest to the positive outcomes that can result from creative arts therapies, and especially for those who are resistive to other treatment approaches. Creative arts therapies are listed in Joint Commission standards, Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities and the National Institutes of Health National Center on complementary and Alternative Medicine.
VA has provided free therapeutic arts and crafts kits to hospitalized and homebound Veterans for generations. The creative arts program helps injured, and recuperating Veterans improve fine motor skills, cognitive functioning, manage stress and substance abuse, cope with symptoms of PTSD and TBI, while also improving their sense of self-esteem and overall physical and mental health. Creative arts therapies are part of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Recreation Therapy Service and are direct-care programs that include the following disciplines: Art Therapy, Dance/Movement Therapy, Drama Therapy, and Music Therapy.
These therapies are recognized as viable treatment options. Creative arts therapists create non-threatening group and individualized artistic experiences for individuals of all ages who confront life challenges related to physical and mental health conditions, on a daily basis. Creative arts therapists provide and promote creative self-expression that is personally driven and individually focused.
Each year, VA sponsors the National Creative Arts Festival for U.S. military Veterans who are served at VA medical centers nationwide. This program enhances the physical, social, and emotional well-being of veterans who participate. The event is co-sponsored by VA, Veteran Service Organizations, and civic groups.
West LA VA in September 2022 hosted local Veteran artists as part of the festival. Joseph Hilson (U.S. Navy, 1972-76) who placed first in the Digital Art category during the 2021 festival for his work entitled “PTSD,” took great pride in sharing his creations with other Veterans and VA staff during the event, which also included live performances. Much of his artwork is influenced by his experience serving in the Vietnam War. An electrician by trade, Hilson earned a degree in graphic design during retirement and believes this creative outlet has helped him manage his PTSD symptoms.
“It calms me,” he said, “and helped me get to the other side.”