Art Class provides injured Soldiers a creative outlet to help cope
By Christopher Fields, Army Warrior Care and TransitionSCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - Tuesday mornings for some Soldiers at the Schofield Barracks, Hawaii Warrior Transition Battalion is a time to let their creativity and imaginations run free for two hours. The Resiliency Through Art class is hosted by the Schofield Barracks Arts and Crafts Center whose flyer for the program says, "Art can provide great relief for anyone dealing with separation, sadness, anxiety, or anger and can boost self-esteem and confidence." The program does not teach wounded, ill and injured Soldiers any particular art style, they just encourage them to be creative and do what they want while they are there."The whole point [of the Arts and Crafts Center] is not us teaching them, it's just them relaxing and doing art without guidance," said Dania Wong who is one of the instructors at the Arts and Crafts Center. "It's more just how they feel and how they can put that into expression in whatever medium they like. It's a relief to them afterwards once they get those emotions out. Art really does heal. It helps you with emotions and feelings. You can just put it all out there."One of the leaders of the program is Dr. David Bevett, a doctor of clinical psychology and a veteran himself having served five years in the Navy before a 17 year career in the Army. Bevett has been with the program for four years and believes in the peace of mind and relaxed state art gives the Soldiers."Art is a way to help Soldiers slow those racing thoughts down and relax. Many of the Soldiers here feel overwhelmed or irritable and this program helps them find peace and relax," said Bevett who hopes to expand the program to include performance arts, like music and dance, one day. "Art provides these Soldiers with another way to relax instead of alcohol or drugs. We also hope they will start using art at home to relax and as a way to connect and bond with their children."The Resiliency Through Art class Soldiers who participate have noticed the benefits creating art has had on them and their recovery.
U.S. Army Spc. Joverthjohn Lopez says one of the reasons he decided to participate in the class was to help him express himself. "I felt that I needed to express myself more. I tried to run away from it, but I guess it's not working to hide your feelings," Lopez said. "I enjoy coming to art class because it makes me feel free and lets my imagination run free. Art helps me calm myself down and become more resilient. Art is another way to cope with your problems. I'm glad the WTB has this program."All are encouraged to participate in the class, even if they are not artistic. Chief Warrant Officer 3 Dan Shontofski decided to give art a try and encourages others to do the same."Give art a chance. I'm not really artistic either, but I said, 'what the heck, I'll try painting.' It turns out I really like it. It gives you a creative outlet that I didn't know I had," Shontofski said. "Art really takes my mind away from everything else that's going on. By the time I leave, I feel very relaxed and feel like I've been able to take a break from everything else that's going on."One aspect of art Shontofski enjoys is the freedom to do what you want, how you want and the pride and joy in creating something for himself and others."[Art] gives you a chance to go off the beaten path and do something different. It's very relaxing. I'm painting stuff for my daughters that I'm going to give to them as gifts. It's making me feel really happy that I can do something for myself and give to my family."Similar art programs are offered at the other 13 WTBs to help Soldiers learn to relax and slow things down. For Sgt. 1st Class Jennifer Owen, participating in the Resiliency Through Art program has been a critical outlet for her as she battles her post-traumatic stress disorder. She says art helps her see the beauty and light in the world instead of the darkness."Art helps me to focus. My head contains such ugly images from my career that can take me to a very dark place and art helps me to focus on the beauty that can be created by my hands, instead of the devastation that man creates. It opens my eyes to all the beauty that is around us every day," Owen said.For many Soldiers like Owen, art programs like Resiliency Through Art become a key piece in their recovery and are invaluable to them."There are those of us who need this program because it is a rung on the ladder that helps us climb out of the pit that clings to us," Owen said. "We use art as a distraction and helps us struggling with PTSD to see we are more than our head is telling us."