Spotlight shines on veterans’ issues, talents

'Moving On, Moving Forward' exhibit on display at C.R.E.A.T.E Community Studios
ART4Vets member Felix Bernardo crafts pens using finished wood.
ART4Vets member Felix Bernardo crafts pens using finished wood.

SCHENECTADY/SARATOGA SPRINGS — Art has an uncanny ability to heal and reveal. 

At least that’s what the creators of “Moving On, Moving Forward,” an exhibit on display C.R.E.A.T.E Community Studios have found.  

There are patriotic paintings, abstracts, photographs and a few mixed media pieces, all created by veterans from across the Capital Region. Each piece reveals something about the artist that made it, even if it’s not apparent on first glance. 

The exhibit was put together by a group called ART4Vets and much, much, much more, a group of local veterans formed by army veteran Penny Lee Deere in 2016.  Many members met at the Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, where they went for materials art therapy for several years. Deere founded the group because she said services were changed and veterans didn’t feel they had the access they needed for therapy. 

“Many retreated into their house and wouldn’t come out,” Deere said.  

Deere has post-traumatic stress disorder and knew she wasn’t the only one who would need some form of fellowship and therapy to supplement the services at Stratton. The group is sponsored by Heroes at Home, a local program that helps veterans reintegrate into society and gets financial support and peer mentoring from volunteers. 

Several times a week, members get together at the Joseph E. Zalogato American Legion or the Troy Senior Center write, paint, draw, craft, play music and to spend time together. Deere also facilitates health/wellness presenters and plans horse therapy sessions and kayaking trips. 

These may seem like simple activities, but to veterans who are in need of something more, it’s everything. 

Veterans like Christine Rose Hazuka said after her therapy was rolled back she was crushed and didn’t want to “even try” any longer. But every week, she heads out to the Zaloga

American Legion to meet with the group, where she feels safe and welcomed and comfortable enough to create. 

“We’ve got some pretty good artists that don’t know they’re talented,” Deere said. 

One veteran turned artist, Cindy Hook, created intense paintings of eyes with green and blue patterned backgrounds. It’s a piece that recognizes sexual violence and harassment that goes on in the military. 

A clothesline featuring hangs in the window of the Schenectady location, holding up shirts with messages about sexual assault in the military. Other pieces reflect issues that have come up because of PTSD and still others, like a few mountainous landscapes, reflect the self-care that can come with creating.  

One member, Felix Bernardo, crafted beautiful pens, using finished wood for the show. The process is physically therapeutic for his hands, but it’s more than that. 

“It has been quite a ride but worth the trip … with the support and outlets like the art show I can so to speak seek and explore creativity,” Bernardo said. 

Around 50 pieces created by the veterans are on exhibit at C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios in Schenectady and in Saratoga Springs through Nov. 18. 

“The mission of the studio is very much in tune with helping people use arts to promote freedom of expression and personal growth,” said Heather Hutchison, who runs the Schenectady location of C.R.E.A.T.E. 

The studio is also hoping to use the space for art advocacy and “Moving On, Moving Forward,” is a leap in that direction.  

From 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 20, there will be an opening reception at C.R.E.A.T.E. Community Studios at 137 State Street, Schenectady. There will also be a closing reception from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 18 at C.R.E.A.T.E. in Saratoga (480-B Broadway, Saratoga Springs). To see the show, visit for business hours. For more about ART4Vets or to donate/volunteer, call Penny Lee Deere at 607-437-1732 or email her at [email protected].

Categories: Art, Entertainment

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