The Morean Arts Center (MAC) has partnered with James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital (JAHVH) to offer glassblowing to military patients and veterans as part of a community-based arts program in St. Petersberg, Florida.
The inception of Operation: Art of Valor (AoV) began at the Morean Glass Studio & Hot Shop March 18, 2018, with a mission to serve the military and veteran population through structured, hands-on learning that focuses on improving cognition, social interaction, physical dexterity, teamwork and confidence.
JAHVH is one of several clinical sites for Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network, which is a partnership among the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA), Department of Defense, Department of Veteran Affairs and state agencies that serve the special needs of military patients and veterans who’ve been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions. The network consists of doctors, creative arts therapists, artists, arts organization staff and community members who believe in the transformative and restorative powers of the arts.
AoV was initially brought to the MAC by co-founder and veteran, Chris Stowe, who saw the potential benefits of bringing the art of glassblowing to veterans. Chris was always fascinated with glassblowing and completed a 13-week intensive glassblowing course that was made possible through an art therapy grant from a military Wounded Warrior non-profit. From that moment, Chris knew he wanted to help other veterans benefit from the experience of glassblowing.
While attending the 2017 Florida State Department of Cultural Affairs Creative Forces Summit at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, Chris Stowe reconnected with Michael Killoren, former CEO of the MAC, about the opportunity to create a partnership. Shortly thereafter, the MAC decided to move forward with co-founding Operation: Art of Valor.
With the support and partnership of the JAHVH in Tampa, AoV has quickly developed into a structured course with a curriculum consisting of six levels of instruction. While it’s therapeutic for veterans to participate in community-based arts programs, it’s important to note that these programs are not considered therapy, but serve as an opportunity for continued self-expression through the arts outside of clinical care.
Having a place where veterans can connect through experience and collaborate artistically has proven to be beneficial to program participants, and the MAC is proud to be a part of an initiative that serves military patients, veterans and the community.