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11:52 PM Sun, Nov. 18th

Teaching art to veterans

For the last couple of months, Paul Monska and Craig Stilwell have been putting on art classes for veterans at Mountain Artists Guild.

Any veteran, no matter their artistic level, is welcome to come to the classes, which are from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month, said Mountain Artists Guild President Cathleen Rainey.

“They’re starting with the basics on drawing and they hope to continue,” Rainey said. “It’s a place where they can come gather … and visit with each other and learn their artistic skills.”

Everything is supplied and coffee is served along with a light lunch. There’s no agenda beyond it’s a need that has not been met for the veterans, Rainey said.

The class is under the auspices of the Arizona Art Alliance as well as the Veterans Arts Program in Phoenix, Monska said. A veteran who has done work with the homeless, Monska said he thought it would be perfect to do something when Rainey found out about the program and was looking for volunteers. Stillwell is an artist and illustrator with a background in the arts and the two of them got it off the ground, Monska said.

The lessons are multifaceted with a lesson on the art and then an integration of the lesson which are a means to get the veterans interested in art, Stilwell said. Once they get into the art, it’s a world that expands rapidly, he said.

“This whole class is to ignite that,” Stilwell said. “That’s the key, is to get them in, they see the validity of it and excites them to go on.”

The commonality between all the veterans who show up is that they’re all eager to learn and are excited to learn more, Monska said. They like to work with each other too, which is encouraged because it’s good fellowship, he said. After the last class, some stayed afterward to talk and socialize.

The socializing also helps sharpen artistic skills because you learn from your peers, Rainey said. Art isn’t created in a vacuum, she said.

“That’s part of what Mountain Artists Guild is, is you’re among your peers,” Rainey said. “No matter what level of competency, you can always learn from one another.”

The classes are rudimentary, making it so anyone can join at any time, she said. Though art can be very critical at times, the veterans art classes are an enjoyable time, Rainey said.

While he’s a co-facilitator, Monska said the classes have even been inspirational to him and his own artwork.

“I’m going home and sketching more because of Craig’s instruction,” he said.

There are plans for the future of the classes, one of which is to possibly organize a show exclusively for the veterans, Monska said. Stilwell said he’s thought conceptually of a poster competition for the City of Prescott somewhere down the road.

“Wouldn’t that be neat, to integrate that into the livelihood of Prescott in general,” he said. “The vets doing something for the community, which would be really special whether it’s an art show or something like that.”

All the classes are at Mountain Artists Guild, 228 N. Alarcon St. For more information, call 928-445-2510.