By Colleen Flaherty
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD - Tucked inside the cavernous Apache Arts and Crafts Center is a new facility, just for soldiers.
"(It's) a nice, quiet place where they can do anything they want," said Renee Miller, supervisor of Apache's Resiliency Art Room, which opened Tuesday. "No one's going to make them do anything."
The room's walls are lined with veterans' artwork and box after box of free art materials, including pens, pencils, markers, paints, chalks, clay, beads and different types of paper.
Miller said the Apache staff was inspired to create the room following a workshop called "Resiliency Through Art" sponsored by the American Art Therapy Association and Installation Management Command in April.
Arts and crafts managers spent several days learning the benefits of art therapy to pass on to their clients.
Art therapy for combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder can be highly effective, according to a 2006 study published in Art Therapy: Journal of the American Art Therapy Association. It can reduce hyperarousal and avoidance, help veterans externalize traumatic memories and build their self-esteem.
However, unlike traditional art therapy, which can be highly structured, Miller said the Resiliency Art Room is designed to let soldiers' creativity flow without interference. The supervisor is on hand to offer guidance and answer questions only for those who ask.
Finishing touches still are being put on the room, said Jade Coleman, a marketing specialist with Fort Hood's Directorate of Family, Morale and Welfare.
It will soon include "zen" music and other tranquil features, but will always be reserved for military personnel, she said.
"It's somewhere for them to release energy and relax," she said. "It's a positive outlet for the active-duty soldier."
Recent combat veterans might find it especially helpful, said Coleman. "Art can help them balance out, and it's great way to decompress and refocus as they transition back to day-to-day life, versus being in combat."
Miller, an Army veteran, said she wished art was available to her as a way to reintegrate following her deployment during the Persian Gulf War.
"When you come back, you have issues," she said. Shrugging, she added, "You don't even have to deploy to have issues."
Miller taught herself art and now teaches classes at Apache, including the popular doodle-based art form, Zentangle.
The form is proof that anyone can make art, she said, advising those who doubt their natural aptitude to visit the center anyway.
"Just do it," she said. "You can get hooked."
Contact Colleen Flaherty at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559. Follow her on Twitter at KDHFortHood.
If you go
The Apache Arts and Crafts Center's Resiliency Art Room is open to active-duty soldiers only, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays. Use of the room and materials are free, but soldiers are asked to sign in at the Apache sales store.
Apache is at 761st Tank Battalion and 62nd Street, in building 2337. For more information, call (254) 287-0343 or (254) 532-2586.