Veterans showcasing art while healing in St. Petersburg

Pinellas County

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Local veterans are showcasing their creative talents in Saint Petersburg while learning to heal at the same time.

The Bay Pines VA Healthcare System’s C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center is hosting its annual Veterans Creative Arts Competition Thursday.

The competition includes 50 categories in the visual arts division that range from oil painting, to leatherwork, to watercolor painting. There are also more than 100 performing arts categories.

Veteran and artist Shannon Sittloh won for several submissions including her photography, poetry and a collage she put together symbolizing her struggles with addiction and mental health.

“It was just a way to put myself out there because that is what therapy told us, taught us to,” Sittloh said.

Across the country every year, veterans enrolled at VA health centers compete in the local creative arts competition.

Winners are then entered into the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

Veteran Albert Huth took home top honors for a photograph he captured of a beach sunset. He also received recognition for a second photograph and a ceramic seashell he crafted.

Huth is elated knowing the placement will propel him to the national competition.

“I’ve been trying for six years now to make it to nationals and photography is just an excellent hobby for me to partake in,” Huth said.

Nationwide, medical facilities like the Bay Pines use creative arts as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help Veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities.

The art programs help the veterans gain confidence too.

“I knew that I could never do watercolor, it was always a muddy mess,” said veteran Stewart Taylor, who received recognition for a watercolor painting.

“What we see with our veterans is this is an incredible positive outlet for them. It’s a way to cope. For many of them it’s really an amazing ability to heal,” said Rod Velesmoro, director of the Whole Health Program.

The national creative arts festival will be held at Bay Pines in late November and early December.

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