“The valor and courage of our young women and men in the armed services
are a shining example to all of the world, and we owe them and their families our deepest respect.”   — Bill Frist

Banners of Hope Grant

Veterans in the Arts Grant received from The California Arts Council

June 2019

With support from the California Arts Council, CREATIVE EDGE: THE WAY OF THE ARTS, in collaboration with the Volunteer Department of the VA Northern CA Health Care System, will offer a series of free retreats for Veterans to artistically express their military experiences, share their often difficult stories in a supportive community, and then encourage others by creating art of hope and healing.  The healing art will be printed on large outdoor banners to be hung around the hospital and meditation garden to inspire others.

The focus of this project is to ignite hope for the future as participants reconnect to their creativity, transform personal life stories into ones of empowerment and purpose, and inspire others through their work. The first phase is a series of 1 day art retreats offered every month for 9 months where Veterans will explore through art. After, there will be an art show at the Veterans hospital, giving the artists a boost of recognition & appreciation. A short documentary will be filmed during the project. Finally, images of the artists will be printed on banners to be hung in the meditation garden to inspire all visitors.

Each retreat will offer a variety of projects to guide and motivate: writing exercises to help clarify thoughts and feelings; guided visualization and mindfulness techniques to access the subconscious, awaken creative expression and provide tools for managing anxiety, depression and pain relief beyond the retreat; making a collage to explore unspoken feelings that need to be expressed as well as to act as a visual reminder of goals; drawing exercises to stimulate the intuitive brain; painting and 3D art making to induce deep quiet and a safe place for insights or answers to appear; and honest, communal sharing, to remind them of their contributions and connection to others.

This combination of expressive art exercises, mindfulness practices and intimate sharing in a safe environment is a powerful process for participants. As they connect to and artistically express their own life stories and emotions, they gain confidence in their own creative potential, learn to appreciate it in others, develop a healthy curiosity about new possibilities and increase their ability to grow and heal. This empowers them to continue to access their inner resources in all areas of their lives. Participants will remember that they are, in fact, more than the things they have done or not done, and more than their memories of the past. They are valued, unique, creative beings with positive energy to offer the world.

Two artists will be facilitating the retreats: Carol Mathew-Rogers, MA in Transformational Art, with over 16 years experience facilitating art-based exploration, and Alison Tomei, intuitive artist, licensed Life Coach and Certified Meditation Instructor with 5 yrs experience.  An Oversight & Planning Committee will have 5 Veterans and a Mental Health professional.

Creative Edge will collaborate with the Deputy Chief of Voluntary Services of the VA Northern California Healthcare System, John Larson . He has agreed to provide meeting space at no charge for our retreats at their facility, and will create community awareness of this opportunity. He will schedule our art show in the main hospital and has pledged the efforts of the media staff to prepare images for the banners. Finally, he will feature our efforts in the Voluntary Services newsletter. We are also endorsed by the Women Veterans Alliance.