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DOWNTOWN AKRON — Once she heard a veteran share his post traumatic stress disorder story on the radio, Lisa Peacock found her calling. The book editor and playwright had been leading workshops in Chicago to help writers strengthen their voices. Hearing the veteran and then a psychotherapist talk about the importance of veterans sharing their stories to heal made Peacock realize in 2007 that she could help them do that.
Using her own background with the network of creative professionals she knew, Peacock created the Vet Art Project. “I thought as an artist I could build a bridge to veterans and their family members,” Peacock said. “It will also help civilians start to understand and appreciate what it means to serve and learn that we all have a role to play.”
After creating the Vet Art Project, Peacock, who already had a master’s degree in sociology, realized she could more fully serve veterans in this way by becoming a drama therapist. Meanwhile, she moved back to the Akron area after living out of state for 30 years. She and her husband, a veteran, live in Highland Square.
Now Peacock and the Vet Art Project have partnered with the Akron Art Museum to offer free monthly sessions for veterans and their families and friends. The first session was Oct. 2 for female veterans and Peacock was happy to have eight participants.
The next sessions will be Nov. 6 for male veterans and Dec. 4 for young people (ages 9-14) who are part of a veteran’s family, both at 6:30 p.m. at the museum, 1 S. High St.
The program begins with a tour of the museum’s collection, with a focus on a particular area, such as veteran artists. Following that, participants go into the art studio at the museum, where they use a prompt provided by Peacock to take part in an art experience.
“It might involve poetry, collage, chalk drawings, maybe even movement,” Peacock said. The group shares their work and their stories before the session ends.
Peacock said it’s not necessary for program participants to come into the session with experience in the creative arts.
“It’s not about being an artist or being able to practice an art form,” she said. “It’s about storytelling, and the practice of art is to connect to your own life experience. We all have unique experiences to share. It’s really empowering for people to help them take that step.”
She crafted the program to have separate groups so the participants can feel safe to express their feelings.
“Each participant can share their story and not feel the burden of feeling something like ‘I don’t want my wife to think I am unwell,’” she said.
Through working with veterans, Peacock said she has come to learn they have important lessons to share.
“Veterans, specifically combat veterans who have experienced the chaos of war, are the people who can teach us how to be more peaceful with ourselves and how to be more peaceful in the world,” she said.
Peacock said she hopes to continue hosting programs at the museum after the December session. She aspires to do more, as well. “I have other programs I’d like to create, like a therapeutic theater group,” she said. “I would love to do that with veterans and family members.”
Peacock said grants and donations have helped support the program. Donations can be made to the Vet Art Project through its fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas (www.facturedatlas.org and selecting the Vet Art Project).
To register for the next Vet Art Project sessions, call 330-298-5397 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.