Veterans are finding new ways to express themselves, thanks to the Mesa Arts Center.
And on May 13, participants in its Arts in Service program were able to show off their talents at a closing exhibition in the center’s studios,
The program provides veterans and service members with creative pathways to use studio art experiences in the pursuit of overall health and well-being or in pursuit of a career in the arts.
For Terryl Zimmerman, that meant learning new methods of artistic expression and making new friends along the way.
“It gets me out of the house,” said Zimmerman, a veteran of three branches of service. “I meet new people. »
Zimmerman has participated in the program since 2019 and has featured 11 different works of art in the exhibit this year. She said a friend told her about the program and she decided to participate because it was free.
“I can afford it because I have a fixed income,” she said.
She said that this year she learned how to mix different colors with linoleum prints and create a different color impression.
“Now that I’ve figured out how to do it this way, I’m going to do it a whole different way,” she said.
During her time with Arts in Service, Zimmerman made three friends who she enjoyed creating art and spending time having lunch with, but they all moved to different places.
In addition to a donation from the Arizona Veterans Giving Fund, sponsors joined the audience to view various art materials made by veterans.
“Art in all its forms leaves an impression on us, whether we recognize it or not,” said Colonel Wanda Wright (retired).
Wright served 26 years in the military and is now director of the Arizona Department of Veterans Services.
She said the program instructors had an uplifting impact and helped improve the quality of life for veterans.
She said they help cultivate and provide a path for service members to find their voice through art.
“It also allows others to explore a part of themselves that they didn’t even know was there,” she said.
Katie Turksy, director of Apache international programs at The Boeing Company, said the company was “extremely proud” as a sponsor.
She said the company is coincidentally celebrating its 40th year in Mesa by building the Apache attack helicopter — which makes it even more exciting.
Tursky said it had been more than three years since she volunteered for the program’s semester-start open house due to the pandemic and was attending the end-of-semester celebration for the first time. .
She said she was thrilled to see people come back in person, but also because the program was special to her as an Army kid.
Tursky’s father served 29 years in the US military and now enjoys expressing himself through music and art, especially considering all the changes retirement can bring to a military member.
“I’ve seen firsthand what it feels like to have this outlet for artistic expression and what it can do for your mental health,” she said.
Mesa Mayor John Giles was also in attendance and, in addition to noting the difficulty of finding a parking spot at the arts center, praised the program.
“I was delighted to struggle to find a parking space here tonight,” he said. “That means this building is in use, doesn’t it?”
He also praised the generosity of The Boeing Company, the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community and the Arizona Department of Veterans Services for bringing this “much needed and very valuable” to the community.
Although all are represented except the new United States Space Force, Giles said he was impressed with the art he witnessed in the exhibit.
“I was blown away by the fact that we have some very talented artists in this program,” he said. “This is a very legitimate art exhibit that stands on its own merits.”