Operation Revamp on a mission to heal
7 p.m. Tuesday, June 18
Veteran’s Art Center, 307 S. 12th St.
Fine woodcarvings, tooled leather work, paintings, basketry and photography will be among the artwork displayed at Operation Revamp’s first art opening reception 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 18.
The Veteran’s Art Center, located at 307 S. 12th St., is the brainchild of Wendy Hoffman, who found creating art to be therapeutic and healing in her own life.
“My personal experience, after being diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) — I came out of it through my art,” Hoffman said. “It’s important for healing.”
As former national president of the Blue Star Mothers (an organization for mothers with children serving or who have served in the armed forces) Hoffman attended a Yellow Ribbon symposium in Nashville where she learned of various healing modalities for returning military veterans. Many were sports-oriented or physical therapies, but nothing related to the arts, Hoffman said.
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“That’s got to change,” Hoffman said, and so in 2010, she founded the nonprofit 501(c)3 Operation Revamp (Remember Every Veteran And Making Progress). In April, Hoffman purchased the former Sentinel Printing building on the corner of Ute Avenue and 12th Street to house Operation Revamp.
The center includes a studio where veterans can do their own artwork or attend art classes taught by volunteers. There’s an art gallery on the premises where veterans can exhibit their work. The room can also be used for film presentations and meetings, Hoffman said.
It’s all free for the veterans.
“Anything they make they can sell through us,” Hoffman said. “If anyone wants to go into business, we’ll help with that, too.”
The current exhibit includes several woodcarvings by Vietnam War veteran Buddy Chadd, who lives near Whitewater.
There’s an exquisite rendering of a Yellowstone cutthroat trout mounted on driftwood; the face of a Civil War soldier; and a intricately carved wolf statue.
Chadd grew up in the Nucla-Naturita area and joined the U.S. Navy in 1965 when he was 17. When he learned of the new Veteran’s Art Center, he brought Hoffman some of his sculptures for the art gallery. He offered to teach woodcarving to other veterans.
“It’ll be the first time I’ve stepped out to do something with (other) vets,” Chadd said. “I hope it will work out well. Commiseration’s not my thing. I just want to help get the creative juices flowing.”
On Monday, another veteran, Karen Sublett, who served in the Air Force from 1975-1982, dropped by several of her basketry pieces for Tuesday’s opening exhibit. She said she’s also interested in teaching basketry if there’s an interest.
“I think it’s a marvelous idea,” Sublett said, regarding the Veteran’s Art Center.
The large studio space contains tables, easels, tools and other supplies — where veterans can attend classes or use the space on their own. Another room will accommodate sculptors, woodworkers and print-makers.
“My initial purpose was to have a place for vets to take art classes and work on art, to have a space, because it’s so therapeutic and healing,” Hoffman said. “It’s grown into more, with meeting spaces, and social aspects.”
Vietnam War veteran James Park, 61, is commander for the District 13 American Legion office — Hoffman gave him office space inside the building. Park is also showing artwork in the gallery.
With only 50 percent of veterans registered with the Veterans Affairs, Hoffman is seeking to additionally provide a resource library at the center where veterans can find information on various organizations like the Defense Center of Excellence and Veterans Brain Injury Center.
In the front of the shop, Hoffman’s son, Dallas Hanson — an Iraq War veteran who served two tours of duty — operates his Wildflower Tech Creations — a laser engraving, sublimation and vinyl graphics business.
Some of Hanson’s photographs will be in the art exhibit as well.
Hoffman expects a dozen of so artists-veterans to be represented in this inaugural exhibit.
“I have vets who are just interested in taking or teaching workshops, or both,” she said. “They can come and just work. We’ll supply the equipment and supplies as we’re able. We depend on donations.”
Joni Beckner is an art therapist at ArtLight Therapy and Studios, 327 N. Seventh St. She, too, has offered her services to the center, perhaps teaching a watercolors class or forming an art therapy group.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Beckner said. “Art is a way to be expressive beyond words. That’s why it is such a helpful tool, and we’re seeing more veterans turning to it.”
Hoffman, who became widowed in December, will turn 62 on the day of the opening reception, June 18.
An array of certificates line the wall of her office, including a bachelor of fine arts degree, a home remodeling and repair diploma, and a certificate in leadership and management.
Hoffman’s PTSD stemmed from abuse she suffered as a child, she said. She remembered as an adult, enrolling in a watercolors class, and from there began taking other art classes. She later was accepted into a college arts program through a medical benefits program.
“I’m paying it forward,” she said. “Art is so powerful, so healing.”
For more information, call 970-462-3126.
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