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Workshop for vets uses painting as therapy

The War Experience Project being hosted at Tacoma Vet Center

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Iraq war veteran Rick Lawson has a unique way of helping himself and other veterans honor their service.

"Painting onto the back of my uniform jacket was a way to honor the memories that only those who wear the uniform can understand, and at the same time convey those experiences to the public," wrote Lawson in an e-mail.

The founder of The War Experience Project: Visualizing The Burden, Lawson began conducting painting workshops and asking other veterans to add to the narrative of their individual military experience.

To facilitate the message of healing through painting, the Tacoma Vet Center will present a number of workshops on The War Experience Project on July 30, July 31 and Aug. 2.

The July 30 workshop is open to families of veterans; the July 31 workshop is open to only female active duty and women veterans; the Aug. 2 workshop is open to all veterans.

All three workshops are from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Participants can bring old uniforms on which to paint.

Lawson's work has attracted national and local attention.

He presented his ideas to the Department of the Army Force Health Protection Conference and was well received.  His work was also featured on KING 5 news.

In making a distinction between commissioned artists and the art servicemembers create on old uniforms, Lawson made a telling point.

"The commissioning of artists to create about what they see is a practice as old as the ages and it is a privileged viewpoint because these artists do not experience the circumstances the same way as those who serve," he continued.

"This project takes back the dialogue and puts the individual in control of their expression."

The Tacoma Vet Center is located at 4916 Center Street, Suite E. Participants are asked to RSVP by calling (253) 565-7038.

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