Veterans Find Healing through Music and Art

Courtesy of Amanda Still; this rendering, which will change with the final product, gives a hint of what the K9 Heroes Mural will look like at Wag Heaven’s new location off Austin Avenue. Painting will begin Nov 11.

William Childress always found solace in music composition, with notes and lyrics constantly flowing from his mind to the piano. As a veteran, he uses music and equestrian therapy to cope with his Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. “No matter what I’m doing, music is in my mind. I love sitting at the piano and bringing it to life,” he says.

But at 79, he had never seen his compositions on paper, until Austin Classical Guitar (ACG) helped him realize that dream. Musicians from ACG, which is spearheading the Storytelling Through Music portion of Georgetown’s Healing Arts for Veterans program, collaborated with William to set his creations to paper. “This is a dream I’ve had all my life that’s finally coming true,” William says, adding he’s forever grateful to ACG for encouraging him and boosting his confidence as a piano player.

HEALING ARTS

Like William, many have paid the price that often comes with serving their country, whether PTSD, depression, or another health issue. But as the city’s Arts and Culture Coordinator Amanda Still says, the health care community doesn’t have enough capacity or funding to meet these needs. “We needed to create an arts program to raise awareness of the issues confronted by this underserved population and present options for artistic programming that help address those issues,” she says.

That goal sparked the Healing Arts for Veterans program, which provides healing and outreach through music workshops and a public art project. “The arts offer alternative and unique opportunities to promote healing from trauma-based experiences and can contribute to an improved quality of life for many suffering the effects of this trauma,” Amanda says. Both projects will culminate during Veterans Day week November 7-15 in recognition of The Rotary Club of Georgetown’s Field of Honor®.

The Arts and Culture Program has joined forces to provide Healing Arts for Veterans with the Rotary Club of Georgetown, Resilient Me Community-based Veteran Resiliency Programs, ACG and country artist Wynn Williams. The program originally had three components: Removing the Mask, mask-making for veterans; Storytelling Through Music, in which veterans’ stories are transformed into songs; and a K9 Heroes Mural at Wag Heaven’s new location next to Lark and Owl Booksellers.

MUSIC PROJECT

ACG’s Travis Marcum shares the heart of the music project: “The goal is to provide a space for members of our military to express their personal experience, their hopes, dreams, fears, and appreciation in the form of a song that’s unique to each participant.” Three veterans ages 30-80 are involved in the Storytelling Through Music program. “Their service spans three wars and they have some truly beautiful things to say about themselves, their fellow service members and the world we live in today,” Travis says. Wynn and ACG musicians will perform the veteran-inspired songs during a private performance that will be live-streamed at 3 p.m. November 7 on the Georgetown Arts and Culture Facebook page.

HEROES MURAL

Georgetown Arts and Culture is also collaborating with Wag Heaven to create a service dog-themed mural to honor K-9 service heroes, war dog Nemo A534, the first K-9 in WWII to receive a Purple Heart. Artists Jay Rivera, who served 18 years in the military, and J. Muzacz will lead the project.

Amanda hopes Healing Arts for Veterans will inspire other similar programs. “Our hope is that healing arts programs as therapy will continue to develop—long after our program has concluded—as an avenue for trauma-based therapy,” she says.

For more about Healing Arts for Veterans, visit
arts.georgetown.org/healing-arts-for-veterans-program.

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