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Military art project engages veterans’ minds

Person holding pencil (RawPixel/Pixel)

Kellon Batten was coloring in a picture of some flowers Tuesday in an activity room at the North Carolina Veterans Home.

For Batten, a resident of the home, the activity was therapeutic.

“It takes your mind off the hustle and bustle,” said Batten, 68. “It eases my headaches, too.”

The class Batten was taking part in is part of the Arts Council of Fayetteville-Cumberland County’s Creative Arts and Military Outreach program.

The program is designed to increase arts activities for the military, veterans and their families, both on Fort Bragg and in the general community. In addition to the art program, it has included writing workshops and performances by the Fayetteville Symphony Orchestra.

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Sessions will continue through Aug. 8.

“We’ll evaluate the program at the end to see if there’s a need for more of this programming,” said Margo Jarvis, grants manager with the Arts Council. “From both the patient side and the artist side, the engagement has been really good.”

Beth Skipper, activity director at the Veterans Home, said she has already seen an impact.

“I think it’s awesome, the interaction that my residents have shown toward this,” Skipper said. “The residents have said they want it back.”

Tuesday, mixed media artist Penny Arrowood was leading a class of about 15 Veterans Home residents through a collage exercise.

It was the fifth in a series of six classes Arrowood has conducted at the home. Participants have been keeping a journal of their art work.

“I’ve seen an increase in enthusiasm, I’ve seen an increase in participation,” Arrowood said. “Once we learned how to quit saying, ‘I can’t,’ we got a lot more done in terms of creative discourse. We’ve had a couple of bridges to cross, but I think we’ve done a good job.”

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Tuesday’s exercise involved creating a collage inside an outline of a profile. Residents had colored pencils and were given magazines from which they could cut out images.

Arrowood stressed that there were really no rules.

“It can be things that you like, it can be a combination of shapes and colors,” she told the residents. “There’s no right or wrong with collage.”

Latoya McNeill, an aide at the Veterans Home, was helping Paul Powers, 90, select some images for his collage. She clipped several pictures from a stack of magazines.

“All right, Mr. Powers, I’m going to let you do some of this, because this is your (profile),” McNeill said. “You can color it whatever color you want.”

Veterans Home resident Alphonso Peppers, 83, is an award-winning professional photographer who studied at the Germain School of Photography in New York.

Peppers, who used to take pictures for the Arts Council and other agencies, said he loves the classes and the creativity they encourage. He was participating in his third session.

“I have dementia, that’s why I’m here,” Peppers said as he worked on his project. “It’s allowing me to use my mind, that’s the main thing.”

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© 2019 The Fayetteville Observer

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.