Offering Veterans opportunities for healing, wellness and community through engagement in the arts.

Every Veteran has the opportunity to experience the healing power of the arts.

Bihl Haus Arts (BHA), collaborating with Vet TRIIP, both located in San Antonio, Texas, has launched an innovative program offering professionally taught drawing and painting classes to veterans who are experiencing depression or are clinically or self-diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The mission of Forward, Arts! is to offer veterans opportunities for healing, wellness and community through engagement in the arts. 

The need for veteran services in San Antonio is great. More than 2.6 million veterans have served in the Middle East since 9/11. Each year 7,000 service members, 15% of them women, transition out of the military at Joint Base San Antonio.  More than half decide to stay in Bexar County. Overall, an estimated three in ten have PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury and/or major depression. During the past two years, more active service men and women have lost their lives from suicide than from combat. Each day, 22 American vets end their own lives. BHA’s new Forward, Arts! program aims to help ease veterans’ emotional and physical pains through arts immersion

The potential for healing that comes through hands-on, creative engagement with art—in this case, painting and drawing—is proven. While BHA’s pilot class is a pioneering endeavor in San Antonio, it emerged from national military initiatives in the arts and BHA’s nationally recognized arts program.

Almost ten years ago, recognition of the healing potential of the arts across the military continuum drove the creation of two initiatives—the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military led by Americans for the Arts (AFTA), and the Creative Forces network initiated by the National Endowment for the Arts. The latter has reached out to state art agencies, including the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA).

Philosophers have told us for thousands of years that the power to create is very closely linked to the power to destroy. Now science is showing us that the part of the brain that registers a traumatic wound can be the part of the brain where healing happens too. And art therapy is showing us how to make that connection. 

Melissa Walker

TEDMED 2015

Learn about The National Initiative for Arts and Health in the Military

When I first came to the Forward Arts class I was unsure of what to expect. I came with a desire to learn to draw but a greater expectation was to find some relief from my symptoms. By the end of the first, class I realized that I was able to relax and just focus on the instruction and drawing. In doing so the stress, the neuropathy, and moreover the pain levels that I had experienced had decreased or at least my focus had been distracted away from them. I have continued attending classes I have found that the three hours of class have become an oasis of relief for me.

U.S. Army Veteran

I’m a disabled veteran and suffer from anxiety and mild depression. My spouse is also a disabled vet, and I am his primary caregiver. At times life can seem quite overwhelming. When I am in class, I am in the moment and can focus on the task at hand. When I fill out the questionnaire at the end of the session, my anxiety/stress levels are always lower or gone.

U.S. Navy Veteran

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