The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation (MKAF)—a not-for-profit charitable arts organization founded in 1995 to be Northwest Florida’s champion of cultural arts and arts education for all—offers arts instruction adapted to each warrior’s unique needs.
Rehabilitation, reintegration, therapy, adaptive sports and family are critical to the recovery of our nation’s wounded warriors. In addition, the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation believes in the power of art as an underestimated approach to recovery. For those undergoing physical rehabilitation, arts activities enhance motor skills such as dexterity and eye-hand coordination; sustain cognitive functioning, increase attention span, and improve memory and reasoning.
Art-making activities can be customized to reconcile physical changes and injuries, capitalizing on participants’ strengths while reinforcing key physical skills. Performing and visual arts further enhance quality of life by providing a meaningful creative vocation to improve self-esteem and increase personal self-worth. Additionally, for those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress, the arts can provide opportunities to express, process, or reframe painful experiences; or assist them in staying in the present moment.
MKAF works with local military units and veteran service organizations to offer the opportunity for individuals to experience the empowering process of creating something new and gaining artistic skills.
“MKAF is pleased to be able to give back to our veterans and active duty military in this unique and impactful way,” said Melanie Moore, MKAF education director. “We applaud the efforts of our local military units and veteran service organizations to promote healing and resiliency, and are dedicated to offering complementary arts programs with therapeutic benefits at no cost to the participants.”
MKAF has received great interest in its “Zentangle” drawing course, or “Drawing for Mindfulness.” This method produces an intricate and patterned art form that is built one line at a time. This open-ended drawing activity increases focus and creativity, provides artistic satisfaction along with an increased sense of personal wellbeing.
Simple “tangles,” or patterns, are combined in an unplanned way that grows and changes in an improvisational style. While the mind is engaged in drawing, the body relaxes, alleviating stress and anxiety.
Often, new insights are uncovered along with a sense of confidence in creative abilities. Some of the other courses offered include drumming and songwriting specifically adapted for the veteran population.
“The Zentangle art method is not only a compelling drawing technique, it has proven to be an excellent tool for cultivating mindfulness that is complementary to other therapies that are offered to the warrior population,” Ms. Moore said. “As each participant is guided through the process of drawing various patterns, it engages their brain in a positive way, allowing for them to achieve a relaxed focus and a departure from other repetitive thoughts.
“In addition, it is empowering to create something new. Our warrior artists are often amazed at the results that they are able to achieve in one class, often with no prior artistic experience.”
Warrior Arts Program availability is dependent on available funding sources. Recently, the foundation raised over $12,000 with its Warrior Wall fundraising campaign in support of the initiative. MKAF serves as a proactive arts education partner for the communities of Okaloosa and Walton Counties. Outreach initiatives are funded through the support of event profits, grants, private and corporate gifts.
For more information about getting involved by volunteering or joining the Board of Directors, visit MattieKellyArtsFoundation.org or call 850-650-2226.
– Shantelle Dedicke
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