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Museum Helps War Veterans Reach Their Inner Artists

Christine DiMattei

Once their tours of duty are over, war veterans sometimes have trouble readjusting to civilian life. But a program in Broward County uses art as a way to help vets cope with the trauma.

For the past few weeks, the Coral Springs Museum of Art has been hosting free sessions for veterans of all ages. They’re encouraged to express themselves however they choose -- with paints, colored pencils, collage or even poetry.

Vietnam vet Howard Sweitzer, who was a graphic artist before joining the Marines in the late 1950s, says he’d like to see more young veterans take advantage of educational programs.

“I’ve seen so much wasted minds," says Sweitzer, 78. "Vietnam was filled with wasted bodies and people who never had an opportunity to come back and get an education."

The program, called The Art of War, is led by Dr. Caren Neile, FAU professor and co-host of WLRN's The Public Storyteller. Although getting veterans to open up about their combat experiences isn't the stated goal of the program, a licensed mental health counselor is always present throughout the art sessions.

“We would like this to be a place where they can feel relief. But relief could also mean release," says Neile. "Whatever they need, we are here to support them.” 

The Art of War sessions are still in a pilot phase, funded through a grant from the United Way of Broward County's Mission United.

The Coral Springs Museum of Art plans to exhibit the artwork created by the veterans next month in honor of Veterans Day.

The last two Art of War sessions for veterans are scheduled for Oct. 13 & Oct. 20 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Coral Springs Museum of Art, 2855 Coral Springs Drive. For more information, please call 954-340-5000.

Years ago, after racking her brains trying to find a fun, engaging, creative night gig to subsidize her acting habit, Chris decided to ride her commercial voiceover experience into the fast-paced world of radio broadcasting. She started out with traffic reporting, moved on to news -- and never looked back. Since then, Chris has worked in newsrooms throughout South Florida, producing stories for radio broadcasts and the web.