Arizona veterans enroll in 'Healing Arts' classes

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Fine Art EXPO is playing host to some military veterans who are taking free art lessons, thanks to the Healing Arts Foundation.

"It gives me a sense of peace. When I walk away from here today, I'm going to feel good because I accomplished something," Filmer Kewanyama, an Army veteran, told 3TV.

Kewanyama drives all the way from Prescott for his weekly sculpture class.

He and some of the others struggle with stress and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

"I really never thought I'd get into sculpture," said Navy veteran Jim Treece.

Most here have little or no experience in the arts, but consider the class therapeutic.

"It's an emotional healing," said Steve Smigay, whose wife encouraged him to enroll.

Smigay quickly realized that he has a natural artistic talent, and also realized the healing powers of the class.

"For those who just came out of Iraq or Afghanistan, they all express this is an opportunity for me to relax and meditate, and not think about what's happened," Smigay said.

"Most folks aren't here for physical healing. It's more for a mental, psychological and emotional healing," Army veteran Mike Noyes said.

Others, like Barry Rosenblatt, a retired Army dentist, believe they have healed physically, as well.

"I think this is an excellent program for anyone with a traumatic brain injury," he said.

Rosenblatt suffered a stroke five years ago, and lost some mobility. He credits the sculpting class, which he began a year ago, with helping to redevelop his hand-eye coordination.

"A lot of vets who have had traumatic brain injury and a lot of others, soldiers who have hand injuries, this is, I think, very good to develop the hand-brain connection," Rosenblatt said.

"If you compare what Rosenblatt did last year to what he's doing this year, it's the difference between night and day," artist Hal Stewart told 3TV. Stewart has a booth at the EXPO but volunteers his time to teach the veterans.

"Art therapy is the real deal. Their whole world becomes this. They forget everything they have outside, all the distractions," Stewart said.

Stewart says the Healing Arts Foundation is a charity, and is currently struggling to buy supplies and also organize rides to bring veterans to classes.

The current class ends in a week, but future classes will be free and open to all veterans.

The EXPO boasts 115 working studios, and runs through March at the corner of Scottsdale and Jomax roads.

More information is available at www.arizonafineartexpo.com.

Veterans can find more information about classes at www.americanhealingartsfoundation.org.