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Award-winning art by military veterans

American Lake VA Hospital showcases 2017 Creative Arts Festival

U.S. Army veteran Lonnie Baumann takes home first place in the applied art-carving category and also Best in Show for his work titled, “Wolf of Gubio.” Photo credit: Andrew Fickes

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A diverse range of art on display by military veterans inspired and entertained visitors to the 2017 VA Puget Sound Creative Arts Festival March 2-4 at American Lake VA Hospital in Lakewood.

One-hundred and twenty-nine works were represented across 34 visual arts categories in fine arts, applied arts and craft kits. Photography was the largest category with 25 entries represented.

Richard Womack, a U.S. Air Force veteran, received the first place prize for color photography and also first place for black and white photography - this after picking up the camera just five months ago.

"It's a way to get out more and have an active lifestyle," he said.

Womack was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. He receives treatment at the PTSD outpatient clinic at American Lake. Part of his goal in healing includes achieving 10,000 steps per day.

A resident of Steilacoom, Womack visits the ferry station to take the ferry to Anderson Island. During one of his excursions, he snapped a color photo of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe train coming in on the tracks. He titled the image, "Thunder Pumpkin 22," named after the color used by BNSF for its trains and the No. 22 that refers to the number of daily veteran suicides. "It's a metaphor to illustrate the magnitude and the need and the situation faced by veterans."

Womack's black and white image was titled, "Pigeon-Winged," a metaphor for wounded warriors or wounded veterans. The image depicted three pigeons on the roof of the ferry station building - one white, two black. The arresting contrast of color makes for quite an image.

Womack said he learned of the creative arts festival from a poster he saw at American Lake. He said he was surprised by his first place win.

"It was an opportunity to get some of my pictures out there," he said.

Lonnie Baumann, a U.S. Army veteran who was medically discharged in 1984, is known at the festival for his woodworking. He especially loves to refurbish and carve electric guitars, which he said he has produced a half dozen over the years.

Baumann entered in a guitar this year called "Dragon Strings," which received first place prize in woodworking. The guitar was one his son Lonnie Jr. purchased from a fellow soldier in Afghanistan. Baumann also received first place and the Best in Show honor for his carving entry, "Wolf of Gubio," which tells the story of St. Francis taming the wolf and asking the animal to stop terrorizing the village.

"I got into wood carving to help me work myself out of depression," Baumann said. "It gives me purpose."

Finally, Jamison Myrick, a U.S. Army veteran diagnosed with PTSD, received first place for his debut entry in mixed media titled "Koi Break Water." The work is a skateboard covered in acrylic paints illustrating koi jumping out of the waves with the Japanese rising sun emerging above.

Myrick enjoys expressing himself through art, because it allows him to be social and open up in public.

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