This is my recent piece, cross-posted in the Huffington Post Impact Section.
Russell Simmons once said, “Art allows people a way to dream their way out of their struggle.” The co-writer of this post, Lori McNee, couldn’t agree more. Her work is extraordinary. As an artist, she gives back to her community through the expression of art. Recently, she had the unique honor to convey the healing power of art to a group of veteran women who have been severely wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
This opportunity was made possible through Higher Ground, an amazing nonprofit that taps into a network of resources to aid long-term rehabilitative efforts for veterans with traumatic brain injuries, blindness, severe burns, and much more.
Because we are particularly supportive of charitable efforts to look after veterans and their families, art therapy for wounded warriors is something to really get excited about. In fact, McNee’s art session was a huge success. The majority of the women warriors had never painted before. So in order to alleviate any of their anxieties, they were assured that they were not there to impress anyone with the end result.
One healing factor of art is that it gives the participant some measure of control over what they do. It also allows the creator to focus on something positive, which takes them away from their discomfort and benefits their health in the long run. A safe environment was provided where the women could explore and courageously express their intuitive feelings on their own canvas, in a non-verbal way with the support of Higher Ground therapist, Cara Barrett.
|Lori McNee and Women Veterans. Photo Courtesy of Higher Ground|
The women were distracted at first, and some had a hard time listening to some of the instructions. This behavior is a common symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, once they started freely playing with the beautiful acrylic paints, brushes and other fun tools, the ladies became engrossed in their art.
They were taught about the hidden meaning of color and how artists can use color to express themselves, and to create a mood in their paintings. Some of the ladies chose cool, calming colors like blues and purples that represented the peace they were feeling during this art activity. A few of the others gravitated toward the warmer tones like red, orange and yellow to represent their courage, determination or optimism.
One lady even depicted an emotional memory of her late Troop Leader, while others painted abstract designs. Each woman enjoyed the process of creating her own work of art. Afterwards, the project was assessed and the women were asked how they felt while they were painting. The majority of them said painting felt wonderful; they didn’t think about any of their injuries, pain and stress.
Another awesome activity from Higher Ground! Their summer and winter camps in the picturesque mountains of Sun Valley, Idaho are extraordinary. The veterans leave the camps with a restored sense of independence, a desire to improve work and school performance, and an increased ability to cope with combat related stress. Indeed, our veterans should also be cared for when they return home, and not simply on the field of battle.