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War Veterans From Across U.S. Come to Chicago To Learn How to Be Artists

By Kyla Gardner | June 11, 2015 5:43am
 Instructor Richard Casper talks to a student about her ceramics piece in
Instructor Richard Casper talks to a student about her ceramics piece in "Intro to Art for Veterans" at the School of the Art Institute.
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DOWNTOWN — Veterans from around the United States are facing their war experiences head-on in Chicago — through clay.

A three-week art intensive held at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has brought together veterans from the Marines, Navy and Army who have served in Vietnam and Iraq to learn about the healing power of art.

Richard Casper, a Marine and Iraq War veteran who lives in Nashville, began nonprofit CreatiVets to help struggling veterans talk about their experiences through song.

He struggled in business school, having suffered an injury to the analytic half of his brain during his service, and transferred to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to study ceramics.

Kyla Gardner says the creative outlets are beneficial to returning troops:

His six students this summer — who have no previous art experience — will be unveiling their pieces at a public show.

The show goes from 4-6 p.m. Friday at the LeRoy Neiman Center, 37 S. Wabash Ave., Suite 201.

"The public gets to see what the veterans want them to see, and it may be the first time they ever tell their story," Casper said of the upcoming show. "Even if it's in a more abstract and conceptual way, they're telling their story finally and they're telling it to a bunch of people, and that's awesome. It's so much they're overcoming just by being a part of the show."

Watch students at work at the introductory art class for veterans led by Richard Casper [DNAinfo/Kyla Gardner]

Eugene Soto, a Marine Corps veteran from Pomona, Calif., is working on a plaster piece about a friend wounded in Iraq who spent his last moments with Soto.

"Just being there with him, and just hearing his last words, that's something that's always been with me," he said.

Soto said it had been comforting to attend the class with his fellow veterans.

"Everybody's sharing so much information on way of life and struggles that we have in common," Soto said. "It's a lot easier to work with other veterans."

Casper hopes to expand CreatiVets from the summer ceramics intensive and song-writing to a nonprofit that could support writing, acting, and many more forms of art therapy.

"I want a place that, instead of going to the bar and drinking, [veterans] go to the art studio and just do art," he said.

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