Utah veterans display art that heals

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah veterans displayed artwork that helps them heal. For some, the local exhibit at the George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center will lead to a national competition in Wisconsin. For all, it is therapy that soothes their souls.

Marine veteran Amanda Middlemas of Green River, Wyo., says her colorful paintings and drawings cover a wide range of emotions: from dark to bright. Art motivates her and helps her channel those emotions.

Middlemas says, "Just realizing that I can accomplish something, and that I do have a purpose, just getting something down on a piece of paper."

The Operation Enduring Freedom Marine veteran was diagnosed with a mental disability while in the service and medically discharged. She was encouraged to turn to art. One of her pieces, "A Lovely Turtle," earned first place.

"It helps with my mood," says Middlemas. "It helps with therapy and just helps me kind of get along throughout the day."

Veterans National Creative Art Festival
Performing Arts
Friday, Feb. 19
2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
VA Medical Center
Building 8, Multi-purpose Center
500 Foothill Dr.
Salt Lake City

VA medical centers across the country are displaying the visual and performing art of their veterans. Those who earn top honors will show off their work at the national competition. But, few of the veterans had that in mind when they chose their art.

Twenty-five veterans showed their work at the George E. Wahlen VA Medical Center at 500 Foothill Drive in Salt Lake City.

Art therapists at the VA say the visual and performing arts give vets productive, rather than destructive, outlets.

Emily Potter, VA art therapist, says, "They're trying to decide what to do with all the feeling of what they've gone through in the wars and their service. Art gives them a voice to express what's going on with them and also let the past go and live in the present."

Vietnam veteran Gerald Hubbard fought in 1968 and 1969. He says he came home in bad shape but still wanted to thank his fellow veterans.

Hubbard says, "It gives me something to do besides think about me. It gives me an outreach to think about my veterans and my friends."

He makes colorful service ribbon beads to honor fellow veterans from each war dating back to World War II. Previously, Hubbard only showed his work to other veterans. Soon, he'll show his work at the national show.

"Never really thought myself to be an artist, but then I discovered, this is performing art."

He only shares, never sells, and always focuses on fellow veterans.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com


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