Styrofoam heads and shoes can tell stories.
Art therapist Lila Dielke knows because she’s heard them and, though she’s often brought to tears, she is certain that healing is possible.
She works with veterans through Warriors Heart to Art, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to help Spokane-area veterans heal from PTSD using creative arts to tell their stories.
“Through creative expression, trust was built and they no longer felt alone,” Dielke said. “The trauma, the horror of what happened, has moved from that deep, dark place within them out onto their canvases, their images, their songs.”
On May 1, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture will host a free event that will include a display of Styrofoam heads and shoes adorned with emotionally driven images; mixed-media collages of thought, memory and hope created by men and women veterans. Veterans will also be in attendance, reading their stories and poetry, singing songs and sharing their experiences including memories of military sexual trauma.
The interactive event is organized by Ildiko Kalapacs, executive director of the Bearing Project, an organization that hopes to bring awareness through a life-sized sculpture that “celebrates the strength of the human spirit as it carries the burdens of the physical and emotional aftermath of war.”
It will also include videos like Larry Shook’s “Grace and Me: A Forbidden Tale of War.” Grace is the name he gave to a deer that he hit with his car, an experience that triggered Vietnam flashbacks. In the video produced by Hamilton Studio, Shook explains how post traumatic stress disorder is contagious and affects everyone and how talking openly about traumatic events can lead to healing. “Tell your truth,” he said in the video, “That’s how the light gets in.”
Sam Lien Lee will share stories from the pages of his book “The Spirit Still Storms.” Lee, a Vietnam refugee who served in the war as a combat interpreter for the U.S. Special Forces, was imprisoned by the Communists after the war. He escaped on a fishing boat crossing the South China Sea, traveling 1,000 miles under a typhoon.
John Thamm’s book “Vets: 50 Portraits of Veterans and Their Stories” will be available for visitors to view as well as a selection of original portraits. Other stories will be affixed to the wall written by refugees and veterans in various stages of healing, some willing to disclose their names and others not.
Visitors can expect to shed a tear or two while learning that trauma doesn’t have to define an individual and that healing is possible through creative expression and the sharing of truths, letting those who suffer know that they are not alone.
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