September 13, 2018
CONTACT: Sherrona Steward
PR & Communications Manager
727.822.7872 ext. 2210
Morean Arts Center Partners with James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital to Offer Glassblowing to Military Patients and Veterans
Operation: Art of Valor
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Morean Arts Center (MAC) has partnered with James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital (JAHVH) to offer glassblowing to military patients and veterans as part of a community-based arts program. The inception of Operation: Art of Valor (AoV) began at the Morean Glass Studio & Hot Shop March 18 with a mission to serve the military and veteran population through structured, hands-on learning that focuses on improving cognition, social interaction, physical dexterity, teamwork and confidence.
JAHVH is one of several clinical sites for Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network, which is a partnership among the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), Department of Defense, Department of Veteran Affairs and state agencies that serve the special needs of military patients and veterans who’ve been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions. The network consists of doctors, creative arts therapists, artists, arts organization staff and community members who believe in the transformative and restorative powers of the arts.
AoV was initially brought to the MAC by co-founder and veteran, Chris Stowe, who saw the potential benefits of bringing the art of glassblowing to veterans. Chris was always fascinated with glassblowing and started taking classes about three years ago. His 13-week intensive glassblowing course was made possible through an art therapy grant from a military Wounded Warrior non-profit.
From that moment, Chris knew he wanted to help other veterans benefit from the experience of glassblowing. The medium works with heat and heavy materials, which requires concentration and collaboration. “This program is my attempt to help veterans access their creativity and express themselves in a positive way,” says Chris.
While attending the 2017 Florida State Department of Cultural Affairs Creative Forces Summit at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Chris Stowe reconnected with Michael Killoren, CEO of the MAC, about the opportunity to create a partnership. Shortly thereafter, the MAC decided to move forward with co-founding Operation: Art of Valor.
Michael Killoren, a former Discipline Director of the NEA in Washington, D.C. was already familiar with the pioneering and innovative patient-centered protocols developed at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) at Walter Reed, and the partnership between the NEA and Department of Defense. Michael states “I was familiar with Chris’ work and his compelling personal narrative during my time at the NEA, so it was quite natural for me to make this a priority.”
With the support and partnership of the JAHVH in Tampa, AoV has quickly developed into a structured course with a curriculum consisting of six levels of instruction. While it’s therapeutic for veterans to participate in community-based arts programs, it’s important to note that these programs are not considered therapy, but serve as an opportunity for continued self-expression through the arts outside of clinical care.
Registered Board-Certified Art Therapist, Merrilee Jorn of the Creative Forces Network joined JAHVH in October 2017. “Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network, is creating connections between community-based arts opportunities for service members and veteran families and clinical sites. Reflecting this effort, programs such as Operation: Art of Valor are extending support for both current and former creative arts therapy patients and their families”, says Merrilee.
Since the beginning of AoV, Chris Stowe has graciously agreed to serve as a creative advisor to the program and works closely with Morean Glass Studio & Hot Shop Manager, Matt Piepenbrok. Matt has had the opportunity to work with several veterans and has four committed full-time students. “I take a lot of pride in seeing both the technical and artistic growth in participants, as well as seeing them blossom socially and culturally as a group”, says Matt.
Having a place where veterans can connect in experience and collaborate artistically has proven to be beneficial to long-time Glass Studio & Hot Shop student and veteran Andrew Williamson. As one of the first students to join AoV from the beginning, Andrew knew that the program was something he wanted to be involved in. Andrew stated that his personal achievement in class was “working with other veterans as part of a team to create amazing glass items and helping all of us focus on the things we create together while giving back to a group that has given so much for our country.” Andrew has been a student at the Morean Arts Center for the past 18 months and now serves as an assistant instructor at the Glass Studio & Hot Shop.
While glassblowing is one of many ways veterans can express themselves artistically, Chris Stowe wanted it to be a springboard for additional opportunities at the MAC. According to Chris, “My hopes for AoV is for it to grow into segment programs in all of the visual medium courses available at the Morean Arts Center. I also have hope to bring glassblowing to veterans that are not able to physically get to the Morean Arts Center through the means of a mobile glassblowing studio and showcase AoV veterans and their artwork as well as demonstrations in the community. I also envision veteran’s specific gallery shows at the Morean and other partnered galleries in the area. My vision has no limit for this program!”
For more information on Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network, please visit arts.gov/creativeforces. For more information on becoming a patient at the JAHVH, please visithttps://www.tampa.va.gov/patients/eligibility.asp. For more information on the Morean Arts Center, please visit MoreanArtsCenter.org.
About the Morean Arts Center: The Morean Arts Center, with roots dating back to 1917 as the Art Club of St. Petersburg, focuses on an innovative, community-oriented approach to art and art education. The mission of the Morean Arts Center is to connect people with art and to contribute to the economic development of the region. Operating under the Morean Arts Center includes the Chihuly Collection, Glass Studio & Hot Shop and the Morean Center for Clay.
This project is sponsored in part by the Department of State, Division of Cultural Affairs,
the Florida Council of Arts and Culture and the State of Florida and the National Endowment for the Arts.