|“This program has helped save my life. It has also shown me that I am more than a veteran. I am an artist.”
– Participating Veteran
St. Petersburg, FL (November 9, 2019) – In recognition of Veteran’s Day and for the month of November The Morean Arts Center in downtown St. Petersburg will host an exhibit of glass art created by local military veterans. The glass art was created through Operation: Art of Valor, a community-based arts partnership with the James A. Haley Veteran’s Hospital (JAHVH) which is a Creative Forces: National Endowment for the Arts clinical site. The public is invited to participate in the exhibit’s opening reception on Saturday, November 9 from 5 to 9 pm.
Since the Operation: Art of Valor program was launched in March of 2018, over 20 Veterans have had the opportunity to learn about glassblowing and other techniques for making glass art. The Master Glass Artisans of the Morean Glass Studio lead teams of program participants through structured, hand-on learning that focuses on improving cognition, social interaction, physical dexterity, teamwork and confidence.
First established as the St. Petersburg Art Club 102 years ago, the Morean Arts Center has been committed to serving and connecting the community to arts. “Exposure to the arts and the conscious exploration of creativity empower participants with new tools for self-expression and result in enhanced awareness and emotional intelligence. It is our honor to facilitate the creative learning process for those who have served our country,” said Howayda Affan, Executive Director Morean Arts Center.
The glass blowing process often requires that artists work in synchronization to execute a piece. Many of the creations in the exhibit reflect the collaborative design and team work of the artists.
|“Sometimes glassblowing reflects life. I’ve learned to realize that somedays all of my projects don’t turn out as I would have hoped. It was difficult to let some of the failed pieces when I first started. … Now, I can realize when it’s best to just scrap it, take a break, and start over.”
– Participating Veteran
Program co-founder and veteran Chris Stowe saw the potential benefits of bringing the art of glassblowing to veterans. He completed an intensive 13-week glassblowing course made possible through an art therapy grant from a military Wounded Warrior non-profit. “From that moment, I could see how the creative process, the discipline and teamwork required to achieve success, were all beneficial to other veterans,” he said.
“With the support and partnership of the JAHVH, the Art of Valor program has quickly developed into a structured course with a curriculum consisting of six levels of instruction,” said Morean Glass Studio Manager Matt Piepenbrok. “While it is important to note that these programs are not considered therapy, they serve as a critical opportunity for continued self-expression through the arts outside of clinical care.
Having a place where veterans can connect through experience and collaborate artistically has proven to be beneficial to program participants. While the Morean Arts Center is proud to be part of an initiative that serves military patients, veterans and the community, the glassblowing program is just the beginning.
“We are exploring the design of programs that would use photography, clay and other creative materials to achieve similar benefits,” explained Affan. “This work is aligned with our mission of connecting the entire community to art and our legacy of accessibility to art.”