Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Vets' artwork to be on display

Posted By on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 at 10:51 AM

ON DISPLAY: Crack Clown is among the works to be displayed at the veterans exhibit at Starving Artist.
  • ON DISPLAY: "Crack Clown" is among the works to be displayed at the veterans exhibit at Starving Artist.
The many programs offered by the VA to veterans at its day clinic at 2nd and Ringo include art therapy. A news release explains:

The art allows the Veterans to have a positive, stress reducing, and productive activity. Furthermore it provides an outlet for them to express themselves in a creative way. Often words are not able to communicate the complex issues that homeless Veterans encounter. By using a visual means of expression the Veterans are able to better understand themselves and better relate to others. The groups have been very successful thus far and are a positive aspect of the Veterans' treatment.

Too bad the current facility doesn't have adequate space to suitably accommodate this and a wide range of other programs. Too bad Little Rock City Hall is fighting the VA at every turn to prevent it from moving the clinic to a vacant car dealership at 10th and Main. The latest city obstacle is to question issuance of a building permit because the building owner has proposed to spend TOO much on fixing up the derelict building. Little Rock has truly gone down the rabbit hole.

North Little Rock and its Starving Artist Cafe have proved far more welcoming. The cafe in the Argenta Arts District has mounted an exhibit, "From Cardboard to Canvas," this month to showcase work of the vets in the art program. The pieces include work by homeless and formerly homeless vets and many now living on their own and supporting themselves thanks to transitional VA services. Their service spans wars from Vietnam to Iraq.

The artists themselves will be at a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday, March 17 at the Starving Artist Cafe. They serve alcohol at the cafe, but nobody seems too concerned about that. Note to U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin and Mayor Mark Stodola.

FROM CARDBOARD TO CANVAS”
VETERANS DISPLY TALENTS THROUGH ART

The Starving Artist Café at 411 Main Street in the Argenta Arts District of Downtown North Little Rock will be featuring a show titled “From Cardboard to Canvas” during the month of March. There will also be a reception for the artists, their guests, and the public March 17th, from 6 until 8 pm at the Starving Artist Café.

The show is comprised of portraits of Veterans as well as pieces of art that they have created. The artists are all either currently homeless or have experienced homelessness in the past and are now successfully housed in their own homes with assistance and support from the VA. The artists range from Vietnam Veterans to recent Veterans returning from the OEF/OIF conflicts.

The art was created in the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System Little Rock Veteran Day Treatment Center Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) Creative Expressions program. This program provides materials to the artists; in a group format they are encouraged to create pieces that center around existential and therapeutic themes. The Veterans create works centered around a central topic such as home, grief, anger, hope, dreams, the future, or the past to name a few. Groups are conducted every week both at the downtown Day Treatment Center, and where Veterans are housed at the St. Francis House treatment center, and at the Wilbur D. Mills treatment center.

Stephanie Goins is an LMSW Social Worker with a background in the arts. She conducts the groups and facilitates the therapeutic aspects of the art creation. Once the Veterans have created the pieces discussion is facilitated so that they might further explore their ideas regarding the themes. The art allows the Veterans to have a positive, stress reducing, and productive activity. Furthermore it provides an outlet for them to express themselves in a creative way. Often words are not able to communicate the complex issues that homeless Veterans encounter. By using a visual means of expression the Veterans are able to better understand themselves and better relate to others. The groups have been very successful thus far and are a positive aspect of the Veterans' treatment.

The Veterans not only benefit from the stress reducing quality of art creation and the ability to better express themselves and understand their own thoughts, feelings, and memories; they also benefit from the positive interaction and support from the community during exhibitions such as this one. The Veterans are able to have a sense of pride in their accomplishments and see themselves as productive members of the community. Stigma is decreased about mental illness and homelessness when community members are able to see the Veterans as competent artists who have a story to tell.

We greatly appreciate the Starving Artist Café's support of this project and the artists. With the Café's assistance the Veterans now have an outlet through which they can take pride in, and be acknowledged for, their exceptional accomplishments.

Any questions regarding the show can be directed to Stephanie Goins, LMSW (501-257-4392) stephanie.goins@va.gov

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