The experiences vary from photographing wolves in Divide to creating mystical shapes by glass blowing and even coloring fabric with fiber reactive dyes and ice.
But each has the same goal: awaken an artistic spirit in soldiers and airmen across the Pikes Peak region.
It’s all part of the Military Arts Connection, a new program by the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region that offers a wealth of opportunities for military members and their families to flex their creative muscles.
The program connects active-duty service members, veterans and their family members with artists across the region specializing in myriad forms of art — painting, making pottery and even singing — for workshops, lessons and artistic “experiences.” The goal: Build a deeper sense of community through artistic expression.
“The whole idea is to provide access to creative experiences for the military sector and to help them to build connections with their community — our community — to help them to discover new skills and to help them unleash their creative talents,” said Andy Vick, executive director of the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region.
The local program’s roots date to 2017, when the National Endowment for the Arts expanded a clinical art therapy program to 11 military installations across the nation, including Fort Carson. The endowment also gave $25,000 for local organizers to host a community summit aimed at launching a “Community Connections” project to expand that art program outside the post. The nonprofit Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region then built an immersive website to connect service members to artistic opportunities. Already, about 15 artists have been trained in the program, and 10 service organizations have signed on to facilitate those artistic sessions. More are expected to join the fold this year.
The program is funded by a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which established a framework for the program, as well as a $25,000 grant from Arts in Society and a three-year, $150,000 grant from the Colorado Springs Health Foundation. Together, the grants help ensure that nonprofits can connect clients to the experiences at no cost, and that the artists can get paid for their time.
Anyone interested in joining the program needs to work through one of those nonprofits to attend an art session at no cost, Vick said. But people not interested in working through those organizations can pay their own way.
Vick is adamant that the new program isn’t offering clinical art therapy — almost none of the artists involved in the program are trained to provide such care. But he says that the benefits of being creative and artistic are well-established — which is exactly what Vick wants to see spread throughout the community.
“If you can get folks to have new creative experiences, they’re going to feel more connected to others — they’re going to feel more connected to the community in which they’re having these experiences,” Vick said.
To learn more about the program, visit www.militaryartsconnection.org.