By Roy Fuchs
Homeless veterans in Bridgeport are receiving art instruction thanks to the Westport Arts Center (WAC).
Danielle Ogden, education director at the Westport Arts Center, described the Center’s Gives Back programs to today’s meeting of the Y’s Men of Westport Weston. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Larry Untermeyer for WestportNow.com
The program at Bridgeport’s Homes for the Brave is one of four therapeutic art programs that are part of the WAC Gives Back education initiative, Danielle Ogden, WAC’s director of education, told today’s weekly meeting of the Y’s Men of Westport Weston at Westport’s Unitarian Church.
The other current ones involve seniors, cancer patients and children with disabilities, she said.
At Homes for the Brave, 55 formerly homeless men are working to “get their lives back on track and become contributing members of society,” Ogden said.
The WAC program there is five weeks long and is led by an artist in residence, Jermaine West, a Norwalk graffiti artist.
Each of the 25 veterans involved in the program received a Graffiti Black Book -– a sketch and journal book, Ogden said.
The men were encouraged to gather ideas and images that speak to them, and practice and refine them by sketching. The therapeutic component encouraged them to work together, to express ideas and to get away from their typically insular behavior, Ogden said.
The program got many of them to socialize more, bond, and, ultimately, name their group the Crew Unique, she said.
It was “far more rewarding than we ever imagined,” Ogden said.
She also talked about WAC Gives Back successes with special needs students in Westport’s schools, with senior citizens at Meadow Ridge in Redding, and with multi-generation cancer families at the Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven Hospital.
According to the WAC website, “WAC Gives Back is a pioneering program grounded in the research and knowledge that the arts makes a positive difference in the lives of children and adults and that expressive arts experience can impact a person’s psycho-social, physical, mental and emotional well being.
“WAC Gives Back is committed to delivering therapeutic arts experiences that provide access to enriched instruction and innovative materials and techniques; adaptive learning techniques to empower and celebrate individual creativity, and a place for personal growth and development for individuals of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.”