ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Military vets looking for an escape during the pandemic are being offered free art classes at the Morean Arts Center in St. Pete.
The Morean started a glass blowing class as part of their Art of Valor Program, but now they're expanding the programming to include photography.
"The arts have always been very healing," said instructor Beth Reynolds.
Reynolds knows what it's like to be a veteran. She spent eight years as a Coast Guard reservist. She was eager to share her professional photography experience with fellow vets in the city she grew up in.
"I've always loved to move my knowledge forward and to raise everybody up to enjoy photography. I've never wanted anyone to fear their camera or have it in the closet. Get it out, and let's take pictures," said Reynolds.
Jeffrey Cadwell is one of six local vets to sign up for the brand new photography class.
"This has been a huge tool. Its given people a different outlook on life. Its given them a purpose and even a hope," said Cadwell.
The Air Force veteran said what's nice about the class is Reynolds provides the tips, and then you can go off on your own and practice what you learned any time, anywhere.
"It's an escape. You've had a wild, hectic week at work — it's a way for you to unwind and de-stress," said Cadwell.
The class also builds friendships and reminds them of what it's like to work together.
"They help each other with their cameras, editing their photos, so it brings back that sense of bond that they had in the military," said Reynolds.
During Veterans Day, many of their photos will be displayed inside the Morean Arts Center for the public to see.
"It gives them a sense of community, it gives them a sense of purpose, it gives them a way to express things that they can't say to other people," said Reynolds.
To continue offering programs like this, the Morean Arts Center is currently selling tickets for an October 10 fundraiser: Drag Queen Docent Tour. For more information on the Morean Arts Center, click here.