GRAFENWOEHR, Germany — Military life is often filled with stress, but a “Resiliency Through Art Facilitation” program at U.S. Army Garrison Bavaria gives service members, civilians and families an outlet to decompress through unrestricted creativity.
The program, which is held by the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation at the Grafenwoehr Heart and Home Craft Shop, provides a variety of art materials in a stress-free environment to help participants open up and relax.
Sponsored by Installation Management Command, the first four sessions are free, with every additional session costing a nominal charge to cover supplies.
Participants can paint, draw, mold clay, create a craft or even just fill in a coloring book.
“We facilitate a session, but we don’t provide any therapy,” said Daniel Van Winkle, a recreation assistant with MWR. “We’re providing art instruction and giving them something to do, so that they can decompress in a creative outlet.”
Art making sessions have been linked with a reduction in the stress inducing hormone cortisol, according to the Journal of the American Art Therapy Association.
“Whether it be from the stresses of the day, pre- or post-deployment, or something going on at home, community members can come in and work with us,” said Van Winkle.
It can be difficult for many people to talk openly about their emotions.
“Art is a form of non-verbal communication,” said Van Winkle. “Being a retired infantry guy, I have found that I don’t like to talk about my feelings. My medium is ceramics and I’ve found that when sitting down at a pottery wheel and throwing clay, the rest of the world just disappears and that for me has been therapy.”
The effects of decompressing through art are often immediate.
Van Winkle recently had a reluctant noncommissioned officer come in for the program as directed by her unit.
“She ended up coloring a copy of a Japanese woodblock print for hours,” said Van Winkle. “There was a distinct change in her mannerisms and attitude from when she came in to when she was leaving.”
When Van Winkle asked her how she felt afterwards, the NCO said she actually felt great.
The best way to see the benefits of this program is to experience it first-hand.
“Chains of command and chaplains, I invite you to come in and take part in the program so that you can see exactly what it’s going to do to benefit your unit,” said Van Winkle.
The program is available any day during operating hours, which can be found at Grafenwoehr MWR’s Arts and Crafts website.