Menlo Park VA

For about seven years, a group of vets has been gathering once a week at the Menlo Park VA for PTSD art therapy led by Lisa Giovannetti. The purpose is to give voice to their experience and support them in coping with symptoms and developing skills.

artwork from art therpy_vertWhile the resulting artworks have been displayed at the VA, this is the first time that some of the vets have chosen to share their works with the larger community. The PTSD Healing Art Show at Cafe Zoe in the Willows is the result.

Explains vet Fred Valentine, who spent four years in the Navy as a guided missile technician: “We all experienced some sort of life-threatening trauma while serving. It’s real personal.”

In speaking with a group of the vets, it’s clear that they all approach their art in a different way. Fred was trained as a photographer and what he creates often has a photographic theme. Air Force vet Bob Hearn uses colored pencils or collage to tell a story. Tim Green writes poetry, sometimes mixed with photos, although he admits enjoying finger painting. Laura Barsocchini also enjoys poetry with a mix of graphics. Gail Matthews does a bit of everything — collage, acrylics, ceramics, photography.

Says another vet, Ben Ploshay: “It makes us use another part of our brain. It’s very interesting the way things turn out.”

artwork from art therpy_hori

Being close to the Menlo Park VA, Cafe Zoe is a fitting place for the show. But initially for the vets, it was not about art on the walls but rather coffee in the cup. “We used to go to Donut Delite after class,” says Fred. “But I’m diabetic and wanted to find an alternative. So I googled ‘best coffee’ and Cafe Zoe came up.

“It’s a great place to meet. We really support each other. It’s an amazing bond we’ve formed.”

Photo of vets by Linda Hubbard (c) 2016; photos of artworks by Fred Valentine

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