Art gallery gives Columbia veterans a way to express themselves

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COLUMBIA – Unity of Columbia and the Columbia Vet Center is helping some veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder express their experiences creatively.

Their art is on display at Unity of Columbia church throughout April.

“Often times, when people experience trauma, it becomes closed inward,” said Julie Heese, a readjustment counselor at the Columbia Vet Center. “And often times, if a person can just not express how they’re feeling, they can use art as a tool to access how they feel.”

The exhibit features nine veterans with a variety of military backgrounds.

Army veteran Carol Thompson said, “For a long time, I didn’t really know what emotions were. And, in the last few years, I’ve learned what emotions really are. I’ve learned how to feel because of art.”

Thompson enlisted when she was 17 and now battles post-traumatic stress disorder and military sexual trauma.  

She said, when she first started doing art therapy, her pieces were dark.

“It was dark because that’s what I was feeling,” Thompson said.

Heese said, when veterans go through different therapeutic techniques, they recognize how their art becomes brighter as they work through their issues.  

Thompson said, “Now my art is light and colorful, I have been able to work through a lot of the darkness through my art.” 

Heese said the veterans center plans to continue making the art gallery an annual event.

“This is a way of bringing attention to the fact that veterans are working out their own experiences, like many people, and that veterans are active in looking for tools to work through what they’ve been through and how they are survivors,” Heese said.

The art gallery is open until April 29 and is available for viewing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Thursday and every Sunday morning.