Creative Diversions Bring Calm
What started as a President's Grant for Innovation has come to mean so much more to Nina Walchyshyn.
Through the innovation grant, Veterans Arts offered art classes called Creative Diversions to clients from the Operational Stress Injury Clinic (OSIC)-a clinic where clients receive specialized mental health services for psychological injuries related to traumatic events in their military service. "With international studies showing that making art can help to alleviate psychological trauma for veterans, through this grant we hoped to help clients express positive feelings and difficult emotions, and gain insight into their OSI symptoms," explains Ann Pigott, Veterans Arts Coordinator.
For Nina participating in the Creative Diversions classes had a profound impact on her life. A veteran of the Canadian Forces Nina, 55, says, "Making art is like a panacea for your mind-it's the emotional canvas we paint our lives on."
The students found the classes a way to get together and feel safe. "When we first started the classes, many of us had to leave the room every 15 minutes or so to relieve our anxiety," Nina explains. "But as we grew more comfortable with others in our class and with the instructors, we began to let our guard down and just be ourselves."
"These art classes were a life saver for many of us because they broke the bonds that were keeping us isolated physically and in our mind," says Nina.
Two Creative Diversions sessions were offered, with each session having two-hour classes once a week for eight weeks. With participation open to all OSIC clients, the students came with a broad range of military experience and ages ranging from the young recently returning from Afghanistan, to veterans in their 80s.
"Making art helped me go into a calm, quiet place in my head, and to come out feeling refreshed andCreative relaxed with a different perspective on life," says Nina.
The students chose whether they wanted to work alone or in a group, and the medium they wanted to work in - from ceramics, to painting, to sculpting.
An evaluation showed Creative Diversions exceeded most participants' expectations , supported social interaction in a comfortable environment, and encouraged creative self-expression.
"Through this program I discovered I have this innate ability with art," says Nina. Since completing the Veterans Arts program she has already painted two canvasses, and has an idea for another sculpture. "Art is what I do now-it is a very important and necessary part of my healing and my life."