The Big Red Barn Retreat is launching a community-based outreach Healing Arts program in February. The program is designed to help veterans re-engage in the community, connect with other veterans and emotionally digest all they are feeling through art.

The program will consist of free art workshops for veterans with local artists or studios in and around the Midlands area. Present at each art workshop will be Jim Dukes, Director Healing Arts at the Big Red Barn Retreat, to help co-facilitate the workshop. The first art workshop will be at Peace House Art February 9 at 2 pm Peace House Art is located at 6030 St. Andrews Road, Suite D, Columbia. Peace House Art practices fluid art, which is a form of abstract art that uses acrylic paints with a runny (fluid) consistency.

“For those that are struggling with PTSD or other military stress issues, art is a nonthreatening alternative way to express what they’re feeling when words fail them,” said Sutton Shaw, Executive Director of the Big Red Barn Retreat. “Art can become the first step in expressing overwhelming feelings and through our art outreach program; it also becomes a way veterans can connect with other veterans who are also struggling and at the same time reconnect with society.”

Jim Dukes has been the Director of Healing Arts at the Big Red Barn Retreat for three years, and knows first hand that art can help you overcome adversity in your life. Working as a private explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) contractor and a radiological emergency response team member, Dukes sustained five traumatic brain injuries and severe PTSD. Dukes’s injuries were so severe, he had to learn to walk, read, write, and talk again. His last TBI left him without vision in one eye and loss of hearing in one ear. It’s his experiences and fight to redefine his life after his injuries that make him connect with veterans and active duty service members that participate in the Big Red Barn Retreat’s healing art programs.

“The plan is to have several art workshop throughout the year” said Dukes. “So Veterans can experience all types of art.”

If you are a veteran and are interested in participating or are an artist or art studio and wish to host a workshop, contact Dukes via email at [email protected] or by phone at 704-840-9008.

The Big Red Barn Retreat is a 501(c)(3) located in Blythewood that provides Free therapeutic services to active duty service members and veterans struggling with military and combat related stress issues. The retreat was established in 2014, and helps close to 3,000 military personnel annually. All services provided at the Big Red Barn Retreat are funded through grants and private donations. For more information or to make a donation, go to www.thebigredbarnretreat.org.

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