ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A St. Petersburg art studio is teaming up with the James Haley and Bay Pines Veteran's Hospitals to create a new type of art therapy.
The program is called Art of Valor and helps local veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries discover the therapeutic benefits of glass blowing.
The Morean Glass Studio says the hands-on art experience is saving lives by helping veterans focus on improving their cognition, social interaction, physical dexterity, teamwork, and confidence.
The program has helped more than 20 Veterans over the past year. Proceeds from the art sales go back into funding the program and opening more opportunities up for local veterans.
Matthew Piepenbrok, the Morean glass art studio manager says the program works because it uniquely helps veterans through a lot of the triggers of PTSD.
"Our program puts them in an environment where they are confronted by their triggers," he said. "In the hot shop, it is loud, there's fire, it's dangerous. Yet, one of the things about working with glass is the concentration it takes. Glass demands a lot of attention at 2,000 degrees so you can't just stop. It gives them a creative output to work around the walls built in the brain by traumatic brain injury and PTSD."
"You give up your freedom to join the military and defend freedom. Yes, this is changing lives," US Air Force member Jimmy Melvin explained. "I've had one of my fellow veterans say 'this saved me.'"
The veterans' artwork will be on display, and available for purchase, through the end of November at the Morean Arts Center located at 719 Central Avenue in St. Petersburg, FL.