RICHMOND, Va. -- Even before the students arrive, this studio stirs with excitement. It is adult learning with childlike giddiness. But when paint is poured, and blank canvas go up, these artists get down to business.
The assignment is a landscape of the James River. Every brush stroke moves them closer to healing.
These painters live with physical, cognitive or emotional scars. They are veterans at McGuire VA Medical Center.
Volunteers with Art for the Journey conduct the class every month. Executive Director Cindy Paulin says creating provides a much-needed escape for these military men and women.
“We all come together. We celebrate and we share this experience,” said Cindy. “Somehow it quiets the thoughts you came in with and enter into a place that is really pleasant.”
Milton Wells served 10 years in the Army. A liver transplant and stroke derailed his military career, but not his attitude.
“It’s not about the painting. It’s what it does for you,” said Milton. “It gives me confidence that I can paint and self-confidence in myself.”
It was Milton's first experience with Art for the Journey. It's already paying dividends.
“It rehabilitates you through your mind. That’s the main part. So, I don’t focus on the outcome, but rather what it does for you,” said Milton.
Even before the paint dries the budding artists reserve a spot for next month.
“We see a huge boost in self-esteem, and it carries over when they leave this room,” said Art for the Journey’s Director of Programs, Jamie Wigginton. “It just brought tears to my eyes to see the determination and end results and the smile on their faces when they were done.”
They may not be confused with Michelangelo, DaVinci or Rembrandt. But veterans like Milton Wells are proving we all have a masterpiece inside.
“I’m going to try again next month,” said Milton. “Hopefully, I can do better. This is a good turnout. I’m satisfied.”
If you’re interested in finding out about Art for the Journey, click here.
Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email email@example.com.