Tacoma military veterans and their families will have the chance to combat trauma and explore healing through art this weekend in the War Experience Project, brought for the first time to Tacoma by Bellingham vet and self-taught artist Rick Lawson. The Project offers four-hour painting workshops on July 30, 31 and August 2 for veterans and their families at the Tacoma Vet Center.
Sponsored in part by arts non-profit Shunpike, the War Experience Project was started in December 2008 after Lawson, who served as a specialist in Iraq from 2004-05, took an art class at Western Washington University at Bellingham.
“We studied the Bayeux Tapestry, which details events at the Battle of Hastings in 1066,” says Lawson, “and then the teacher asked us to create an artwork expressing our own take on war experience. I was the only vet in class, and I thought, ‘You don’t know what you’re asking. It’s not that easy.’” Wondering how he could express his experiences through art, Lawson started painting on his old camouflage jacket – and realized he could share the expressive process with other veterans. The first WEP workshop in Bellingham attracted 400 participants, and since then the Project has traveled the nation and overseas, also displaying some jackets at exhibitions in major cities like London, U.K.
Workshops run from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. July 30, 31 and August 2 at the Tacoma Vet Center, and are free. The July 30 workshop is open to families; July 31 is for female veterans and active duty only; Aug. 2 is open to all active duty and veterans. Jackets will be supplied along with paint and brushes, participants are welcome to bring their own. No previous artistic skill is required; simple brush and color-mixing techniques will be taught. The TVC is located at 4916 Center St Suite E, Tacoma. Registration: 253-565-7038. Information: www.warep.com