Soldier On’s Veterans Art Show Featured in The Daily Hampshire Gazette

Hilltown Voices: Solider On Art Show

Daily Hampshire Gazette | July 8, 2016 | Fran Ryan

Art lovers, and friends and supporters of Soldier On veteran artists, gathered at the Hilltown Community Development Corporation in Chesterfield on Thursday for an art open house that showcased 45 art pieces from 12 participating artists.

"Navajo Soul" by John Goodro

“Navajo Soul” by John Goodro

This is a wonderful show,” Northampton resident Keith Woodruff said as he admired one large colorful acrylic painting by John Goodro entitled “Navajo Soul.”

“It is great for the vets to experience creating art, but it is also nice for them to experience other people appreciating their work,” he said.

Soldier On’s mission is to end homelessness among veterans by providing transitional and permanent, sustainable, safe, and affordable housing that veterans own and operate with support services.

The Soldier On’s Veterans Community Art Initiative engages homeless veterans in the arts and cultural activities to promote healing and expand veteran’s social and personal networks of support.

For the last three years, artist in residence Nathan Hanford has been working with several veterans in the program making a wide variety of art supplies available and offering artistic assistance to anyone who cares to participate.

“I facilitate learning from the ground up. Most of them have never done art before,” Hanford said. “It is all about creating a positive point for themselves.”

Staff at the Chesterfield facility said they were impressed with the quality of the art work.

“We have had a lot of different paintings in shows here before but these are amazing,” Charlie Hayes, the HCDC social services program manager said. “These are really very good, if I could, I would buy many of them.”

One couple did just that. Brian and Meaghan Cooper of Pittsfield said a painting by Army Reserve veteran Dawn LeHouiller “just spoke to them,” so they bought the piece, entitled “Portrait of a woman,” for $200.

“We came to support Solider On because we think it is an amazing program,” Meaghan Cooper said.

The couple was surprised when the artist walked in just as they were purchasing her painting.

“I saw this woman walk in and I thought that she looked like the lady in the painting. It was wonderful to find out that she was the artist!” Brian Cooper said.

LeHouiller said that she was just as surprised that one of her pieces had sold.

Dawn LeHouiller standing next to her "Portrait of a Woman"

Dawn LeHouiller standing next to her “Portrait of a Woman”

“I never thought I would sell anything!” LeHouiller said. “I have been painting for most of my life but mostly as a kind of therapy.”

LeHouiller said that Hanford’s work with vets has profoundly changed how many of the participants view themselves and their capabilities.

“I nagged a friend to attend a class with me and she sat down and did a beautiful painting of a nature scene,” LeHouiller said. “It was awesome to see the happiness in her face and the pride she had in what she had created. Nathan makes that possible.”

The show currently has no end date but will continue to run for at least the next several weeks. All proceeds from art sales go directly to the artists. For information on open hours call the HCDC at 296-4536.