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Reshaping Clay & Minds

Art Therapy Veteran Group
The new home base is more than a studio filled with paint brushes and clay tools; it is proof that Veterans can willingly break from their shells (Pictured is the Veteran group with VA Youth Volunteers and ArtCenter Instructors in front of the ArtCenter - Ms. Dunn is standing to the left).

With the help of a skilled art instructor, twenty-five pounds of ceramic clay, and an open studio, Veterans tapped into a community they had yet to discover.

Leaping out of their comfort zones, Veterans learned pottery techniques through the new offering of art therapy at local community partner Lighthouse ArtCenter.

Smiling from ear-to-ear, Lighthouse ArtCenter Executive Director Jeni Licata says, “These art sessions offer Veterans a chance to immerse themselves in the community and find a space where they truly feel comfortable. The first week the Veterans were timid to work with clay and now in week four they are excited to keep coming back. Their art is making an impact, that is the goal.”

Veterans did more than reshape blocks of clay into intimate, functional objects. Their creations of ceramic pots, vases, candle holders and more symbolize their reshaped mindset that art has spurred at their core.

With a mind she compares to a whirlwind, U.S. Air Force Veteran Rachel Dunn, is not one to step outside of what she refers to her as her ‘shell,’ but with art therapy Ms. Dunn has taken recent strides. Now, she is quick to challenge herself and reclaim her creativity as an once artist prior to her military service.

Just as the fire ignites to glaze clay, Ms. Dunn’s passion for art was reignited as each weekly art session progressed.

The rediscovered artist shares, “Being at my home is my safety harbor but also my prison with my anxiety because I can tend to be locked in my thoughts. When I show up and build pottery my mind is focused and is my form of mindfulness for me as I sculpt my creations.”

Each method learned, whether it was to coil or pinch, was another achievement for Veterans that brought an immense sense of pride. Between the paint splatters and hands-on experience, together the Veterans began with clay from scratch to pieces they can take home.

The sense of achievement has felt foreign to some Veterans participating in the art sessions as the recent times of the pandemic has secluded them to the familiar walls of their home.

As each creation was completed, the Art Center felt more and more like their new home.

Said best by the expert herself, Creative Arts Therapist Sara Windrem with the West Palm Beach VA Healthcare System, she emphasizes, “Integrating Veterans through arts gives them a purpose and passion. I have had the pleasure to witness them find their new home base and community at the Lighthouse ArtCenter.”

Art Therapy offers a form of expression that otherwise would have remain bottled in the minds of the Veterans if it was not for the sessions.

The new home base is more than a studio filled with paint brushes and clay tools; it is proof that Veterans can willingly break from their shells.  

Take it from Ms. Dunn, she says, “I found a connection with this activity that broke my wall completely down. I found courage, you have a choice to try it, challenge yourself. Try it.”

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