Art at sea helps WA forces this festive season
WA defence personnel are taking up ‘arms’ in the form of pencils and paints to help them cope with being far from family and home during this festive season.
A new initiative is encouraging serving men and women to immerse themselves in drawing and painting while they are away on a tour of duty.
The Art In The Field project provides individual art packs to defence bases, outposts and naval vessels to give military personnel an artistic alternative to the usual off-duty activities such as fitness, sports and games – with a high degree of therapeutic benefit.
The program is the brain child of the WA-based Military Art Australia Program (MAPA) which has been running visual art courses since October 2015 for former and current defence personnel.
MAPA founder and director Leza Howie, herself the wife of a soldier, said the new Art In the Field initiative is a positive extension of the highly successful Military Art Program.
“These art programs provide a creative outlet with physical and mental benefits for current and former military personnel,” Ms Howie said.
“For those personnel away on tour, artistic pursuits like painting and drawing can help them express their feelings of isolation, homesickness and loneliness in a constructive and positive way.”
“We have created simple, individual art packs containing supplies for drawing and painting which are distributed to military bases and vessels for use by anyone who might be interested”.
“The packs are small and compact and very cost effective when you consider the significant, tangible benefits they are delivering for our serving men and women.
“We are already seeing the good results of the program with paintings and drawings proudly being posted on official naval social media sites (HMAS Sirius) and shared on the Military Art Program Facebook page.”
More than 40 art packs have been distributed this year with a further 30 ready to be go to the HMAS Arunta this Friday 9 December 2016 which has already deployed on a nine month tour.
Ms Howie said that art had proven benefits as a therapy which could assist personnel facing a wide range of issues arising during their military service, from isolation and family separation to post traumatic stress disorder and other challenges.
“The feedback from military participants in the program has been extremely positive with so many of them telling us that regular engagement with art activities has been more beneficial than drugs and counselling,” she said.
MAPA is proudly supported by national property group Peet Limited whose founder James Thomas Peet was a strong supporter of defence personnel and their families through the Boer War and the World Wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45.
Ms Howie said the organisation was run with limited funding and relied heavily on the support of major sponsors such as Peet Limited.
“The generous support of private sponsors like Peet has allowed us to get both the Military Art Program Australia and new initiates like Art In The Field off the ground.”
“To keep the initiative moving forward, we are also seeking public support to help provide the art packs to deployed personnel” Ms Howie said.
“We have only been up and running since 2015 and in that short time have continued to grow and deliver significant benefits for defence personnel and their families.”