Returning soldiers often suffer from the lingering psychological trauma of war. Studies show one way to help veterans cope is through making art. This Friday, the visual arts organization Space One Eleven debuts “Reflections of Generosity”, a veteran-focused art exhibition that expresses the complicated feelings of life after war.
“Reflections of Generosity is a collection of art mostly made by veterans as a way to work through some emotional issues that they may have and some difficulties the may have as they’re transitioning back to civilian life,” says Cheryl Lewis, Director of Programs at Space One Eleven.
The traveling exhibit is the brainchild of Army Sergeant Rob Kelsey, who served 16 years in the military. Kelsey spent the week in residence at Space One Eleven, leading art and writing workshops for teens, veterans and families of veterans.
Lewis says she’s thrilled Kelsey could bring his love of teaching and art to Birmingham. But Kelsey admits it took time and effort to get this far.
“Personally, I was in Iraq back in 2009, I was struggling with how to deal with all of the war,” says Kelsey. “I saw first hand and soldiers I saw that committed suicide and even ones that were killed.”
Kelsey started making art and journaling. His journaling eventually became the book Reflections of Generosity. He also wanted to get more of his fellow veterans, artists, and veterans-turned-artists, involved in an event.
“That became an art exhibit that then traveled around to different military bases,” comments Kelsey. “We’re now up to over 200 art pieces from 12 different countries.”
The exhibit is presented in conjunction with another by Samford University professor Larry Thompson. Thompson’s exhibit, Infantry Project, displays the effects of war on millions of American soldiers and their families since 9/11.
Additionally, Kelsey hosts a panel discussion at Samford University at 11:45 am on Friday in the Samford Art Gallery. The discussion focuses on the history of art therapy programs since the attacks on 9/11.