Art vision for vets
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Wendy Hoffman thinks Grand Junction needs an art gallery and studio exclusively for veterans and their families, and she has found just the place to fill that need.
Hoffman, an ardent supporter of the military through her years with Grand Valley Blue Star Mothers, created the nonprofit Operation Revamp Inc. in 2010 to bring a physical studio and gallery to Grand Junction. Now, after three years of saving money to buy a place and art supplies, Hoffman will open the Veterans Art Center, 307 S. 12th St., in May after purchasing the former Sentinel Printing Co. building.
“My vision is to provide the space, tools and materials” for veterans and their families to display and create art and learn more about visual art from workshops, Hoffman said.
Hoffman’s interest in opening the Veterans Art Center began in 2010 when she attended a national panel discussion on behalf of the Blue Star Mothers, an organization for mothers with military children. The topic of the discussion was domestic rehabilitation programs for combat veterans with head injuries or psychological issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Every method the panel discussed involved physical exercise or sports, Hoffman said.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘What about art?’” she said.
When Hoffman asked experts about art’s viability as a PTSD treatment, she was told there was support but there just weren’t enough people interested in starting such programs.
Shortly thereafter, Hoffman formed Operation Revamp Inc., a nonprofit “to raise awareness of psychological scarring and traumatic brain injuries and benefits of artistic practices in healing,” according to http://www.operationrevamp.org.
Hoffman passionate about helping veterans and about using art as therapy. Although not a veteran, she was diagnosed with PTSD decades ago after being abused as a child, then as a wife. She self-medicated with alcohol and only after starting treatment in her mid-30s did she find art, she said.
The emotional release from sculpting or simply painting mountains with her children’s watercolors inspired her to get her bachelor’s degree in fine arts in 1994 from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada, she said.
She wants to give veterans the same outlet.
“I know how much my own life turned around completely,” Hoffman said. Art “is really a powerful medium of expression,”
Since Hoffman attended that national panel discussion three years ago, more research into art therapy for veterans has been done and chronicled.
The Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the country’s largest military medical center, has offered the “National Summit: Arts, Health, and Well-being Across the Military Continuum” for the past two years. The 2011 convention marked “the first time various branches of the military collaborated with civilian agencies on a national scale to discuss how engaging with the arts provide opportunities to meet the key health issues our military faces…” according to the National Initiative For Arts & Health In the Military at artsusa.org/information_services/research/artsandmilitary/event.asp.
George Delahanty, a counselor at the Grand Junction Vet Center, teaches an expressive arts group for veterans. He said the art group helps veterans relax and talk freely.
Hoffman plans to work with Delahanty. She also wants the Veterans Art Center to participate in local art openings and events because it can be empowering for veterans to showcase their work even if they resist any notion they could be artists.
“People will be like, ‘I’m not an artist. I can’t draw a straight line,’ ” Hoffman said.
She already has her response: “There are no rules to art.”
Hoffman wants to teach workshops in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional art, but the three-demensional studio space is not yet ready for the opening.
In addition to the gallery, the Veterans Art Center will house Dallas Hanson’s Wildflower Tech Creations laser engraving business. Hanson is Hoffman’s son and a combat veteran.
Operation Revamp, The American Legion Post 200 and the Grand Valley Blue Star Mothers also will operate out of the building.