By Lance Cpl. Michelle S. Mattei , Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton
The Marines entered the room reluctantly when they decided to attend an art class to help “express their emotions with color,” but after an hour and a half with Laurie Zagon, the 13 students left the room confident and full of radiant smiles.
“Color gives me a way to say the things that I just don’t have the words for,” said Lane Cpl. J. Contreras, a mortarman with 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment, and first-time student of Art 4 Healing. “You just… paint what you feel.”
Art 4 Healing is a program designed to support emotional healing through art and creative expression for those living with pain, grief, fear or stress. Zagon, former art professor and founder of Art & Creativity for Healing Inc., offers her services to all branches of the military free of charge.
The on base program is geared toward those suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and other stressors of military lifestyle. Although the program is not psychoanalysis, explained Zagon, the participants in the classes are encouraged to bring their paintings to their doctors to help get a better understanding of their emotions.
“We ask the students generic life questions to help them find the pain or struggle inside themselves,” said Zagon. “They answer these questions with abstract colors and paint out their emotions on the canvas.”
The hour and a half-long class gives the participants the opportunity to escape from their daily routine and have a place to relax, focus and paint.
“When I’m done painting I feel a sense of relief,” said Cpl. Amber Weeks, a radio operator with Combat Logistics Battalion-5. “I’m visually creative so this is a great opportunity for me to express myself with a form of art that I’m familiar with.”
The classes are based on a 12-weeklong curriculum and are held every Monday at the Deployment and Behavior Health Center. Art 4 Healing also offers a children’s program held every Thursday at the San Onofre Elementary School for those who need help coping with a deployed parent.
It is only through the generosity of foundations, corporate and private donors that Art & Creativity for Healing continues to grow in its service to the community, said Zagon. For more information about the program, visit their website at www.art4healing.org, or call 949-367-1902.