By SHERIDAN ROY
Southington Community Cultural Arts (SoCCA) and the American Legion Auxiliary Kiltonic Unit 72 have teamed up to provide free art classes for Southington veterans. Up to a dozen veterans can sign up for a seven week session that will meet each Tuesday from Sept. 3 to Oct. 15, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Students will experience different mediums, including painting, drawing and collage. Local artist Susan Brereton will teach the classes.
“At SoCCA, we’re always trying to reach as many diverse populations as possible,” said Lauri MacLean, All Access Program director. “We extend our reach to the overlooked and underserved population, and veterans sometimes fall in that category. We’ve seen through other programs the beneficial outcome that art can have with veterans.”
According to MacLean, the program will give veterans a place to cope with their experiences, and release some of the tension they carry from those experiences.
“Art has a way of healing people’s wounds,” said MacLean.
Part of the benefit of the program is the sense of community that will form between the art students.
“We really encourage participants to come weekly to the classes rather than just pop in here and there,” said MacLean. “The program is intended to be a warm, welcoming, supportive environment where they can connect with other people and feel comfortable.”
The program has been made possible by a donation of approximately $1,600 from the American Legion Auxiliary Kiltonic Unit 72. The donation came from funds raised at the Love Our Heroes dance in April, which celebrated its tenth year this year.
“Each year, we take the money raised at our Love Our Heroes dance and donate it to an organization that supports veterans, or keep it for our own veterans programs like sending care packages to active duty military,” said Auxiliary member Rachel Wache.
After conversations with SoCCA executive director Mary DeCroce, the auxiliary selected this project as the recipients of the funds. A couple years ago, DeCroce worked on a similar art project with a local Veterans Affairs (VA) department, and when it was over, the students’ artwork was displayed in a gallery at SoCCA.
“She was so excited by their work and the meaning behind the work. It was an emotional experience,” said Wache. “She knew she wanted to bring that back and do it again in Southington.”
Wache said art can be a form of therapy for veterans.
“A lot of things come out from past military experiences,” said Wache. “Many return home with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). A lot can happen when they’re doing these art programs.”
There are just 12 seats available in this first go-around of the program, but if it is successful, SoCCA anticipates seeking a grant to offer another session.
To enroll in the program, call (860) 276-1581 or stop in at SoCCA at 93 Main St., Southington.