Nov. 10, 2013
Written by Michael Anthony Adams
In an attempt to thwart the damaging, psychological effects of war, veterans are turning to art as a form of therapy.
Over the weekend, arts organizations, such as the Indianapolis Art Center, along with VonnegutFest, hosted events that focused on community engagement and creative expression for veterans.
“When you come back from deployment, a lot of times there’s a lot things rattling around in your head,” said Robin Hall, who recently retired from the Army National Guard after 33 years .
Hall says that when grief overtakes her, she concentrates on her sketches to block everything else out.
But there’s a stark difference between coping and erasure, says Tim O’Brien, a Vietnam veteran and award-winning author of “The Things They Carried.”
In an interview, O’Brien said the effects of war cannot be cured, and believes that it’s a dangerous mythology to think it can be.
“Once you go to a war, it’s like cancer: you don’t ever get over it,” said O’Brien. “It’s always with you. It’ll be with you until the day you die.”
On Saturday, O’Brien took part in a panel discussion at the Herron School of Art and Design as part of the Spirit and Place Festival’s Veterans Reclaim Armistice Day event.
Benjamin Patton, grandson of Gen. George S. Patton Jr., presented a project produced by a former soldier who participated in his “I Was There” filmmaking workshop.
“In wars past, and in generations past, we asked vets to turn it off when they came home,” said Ben Shine, Director of Communications at the Indianapolis Art Center. “We expected them just to be able to turn off what happened to them and get back to life, and I think it shows that that doesn’t work. We need to open up pathways for them for healing and learning and to deal with what we asked them to go do.”
The Art Center was one of 26 organizations in the country to honor Veteran’s Glassblowing Day. In its inaugural year, the initiative aims to teach glassblowing to veterans as a way of helping them.
Hall was one of the veterans who learned the glass forming technique.
“A lot of times when you’re hurt by something that you’ve seen in combat, you hide those things in the back of your head, in your self-conscious, and you don’t want to deal with them,” said Hall. “I think through art some of that stuff comes out in what you’re doing—whether it be painting, drawing, glassblowing, or whatever.”
Contact Star reporter Michael Anthony Adams at (317) 444-6123 and follow him on Twitter: @MichaelAdams317.