SoCCA celebrates veteran artists

A veteran looks through the directory to identify a painting that interests him at the reception for the July artists of the month at Southington Community Cultural Arts (SoCCA) on Main Street. The wall in front of him features artwork from an art therapy class at The Summit at Plantsville, and the paintings will be on display through July 31. (Photo by John Goralski)



On Friday, July 7, local veterans were joined by their families and friends for a gallery reception at Southington Community Cultural Arts (SoCCA). Each month, a specific artist or group is featured in the main gallery at the art center.

An opening night event is held to kick off the month-long display of work, where visitors are given a directory with the title and artist of the piece.

Local artist Sue Riley points out the work of her students on a wall of the exhibit that’s dedicated to local veterans’ work. Riley teaches an art thereapy class at the Summit at Plantsville every Wednesday. (Photo by John Goralski)

This month, artwork done only by veterans lines the walls of the Historic Gura Building as they are the featured artists.

Executive director Mary DeCroce said that SoCCA always planned to set aside a month in honor of the men and women that served the country. All of the artwork was done through art therapy programs in Southington and West Haven, where participants conveyed their emotions and struggles on a canvas.

“People are spending a lot of time with art for veterans,” DeCroce said. “It’s a creative outlet.”

During the reception, locals paced the gallery, admiring the work that was displayed. Before the evening closed, contributing artists spoke about their experiences in the service and how art therapy benefitted them. Holding their work out for visitors to see, they described what inspired the creativity behind it. Participants encouraged each other to speak and show off their art as friends and families stood by and supported. Members from both art classes were present to share their stories.

In Southington, freelance artist Sue Riley teaches a class at the Summit at Plantsville every Wednesday. Residents that served in the military were encouraged to attend, and eventually the class grew to more than just servicemen and women.

“It started as an all-veteran class, but it has expanded,” said Riley. Even though there are non-veteran members in the class, only the veterans’ art was submitted to SoCCA.

“It was a great showing,” she said about the reception.

One wall at SoCCA is dedicated to the work of veterans from an art therapy class at the Summit at Plantsville.

Art therapist Laura Spinelli is the program director for Giant Steps, an ongoing recovery group for veterans who are in treatment through the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. The West Haven program serves about 70 veterans per week and provides them with the art materials they need.

“It’s about expressing their experiences and releasing their trauma,” Spinelli said. “Most of them have never done art before and they find their voice.”

Artwork submissions came from veterans of different conflicts including Vietnam, Korea, the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and others.

Pieces will remain on display until July 31 in the SoCCA gallery on Main Street across from the town green.

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