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Arts and Crafts center offers artistic outlet

Chris Montgomery, veteran, uses the screen printing system to press logos onto a shirt at the Fort Rucker Arts and Crafts center March 25. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Chris Montgomery, veteran, uses the screen printing system to press logos onto a shirt at the Fort Rucker Arts and Crafts center March 25. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: March 31, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 31, 2016) -- People often search for outlets to help get them through stressful times or find an escape, and the Fort Rucker Arts and Craft center offers just that by helping people channel their creative sides.

One way the center, located in Bldg. 9205 on Ruf Avenue, will offer that escape is through the new Resiliency through Art program, which will have with its own designated area and should be ready for Soldiers beginning in May, said Joan Varner, arts and crafts center program manager.

The program is designed for the wellbeing of Soldiers, said Varner, who oftentimes return from deployments and require an outlet to release the stresses from their time away.

“Right now, we’re working on getting Soldiers in here to get a spot for them to come in and work on things to help them work through any issues they have,” said the program manager. “Soldiers will be able to do just about any type of craft in here that the space allows.”

Currently the program will be for Soldiers only, but Varner said she hopes to be able to expand it to family members, as well, once the program is up and running.

Varner said she’s received a lot of feedback from Soldiers on how therapeutic working at the art center can be for them.

“We have one volunteer who helps in the framing department, and he cannot wait for this and thinks it will be great,” she said. “He said (that working with crafts) helps to calm him and allows him to focus.”

Soldiers won’t be limited to the medium of art they wish to use in the designated space, and can participate if they are just starting out in art or if they are seasoned professionals, said the program manager.

The arts and crafts center does have many other programs and activities that are open to family members and Soldiers alike. The center not only provides a great opportunity for stress relief, but also gives people the opportunity to learn a new craft that they can take with them as they move throughout the military, said Varner.

“Our Soldiers who come (to Fort Rucker) are usually here for about 18 months to two years, and oftentimes they’ll bring their spouses with them,” said the program manager. “Usually, the length of time they’re here isn’t enough time for (spouses) to find a job, so this gives them an outlet where they can work on things or learn a new craft in the time that they’re here.”

Varner said the arts and crafts center is a great place for people to get in touch with their creative side, even if they’ve never had any experience with arts and crafts before.

“People who don’t know what their medium is can start small with something easy like scrapbooking, and then take other classes to explore their creative side,” she said. “We offer classes from stained glass and pottery, to wood burning and framing.”

There are also classes for sewing, quilting, mosaics, drawing and painting, as well as some classes for children 4 and older. The center also offers a fully equipped wood shop with an experienced staff to help people build anything from a jewelry box to custom furniture, added the program manager.

To use the woodshop or take classes in the woodshop, participants must first complete a one-hour safety course, which will help people become familiar with the equipment and how they work. Safety classes are available Saturdays from 9-10 a.m.

Most classes have age requirements and are by appointment only, so Varner asks that patrons sign up for all classes at least 24 hours before class time, with the exception of the regular woodshop safety class.

If people would rather have someone do the work for them, the center also offers a host of services, including framing, gifts, engraving, custom embroidery, screen printing and sublimation, which allows people to customize just about anything from clothes, bags, mugs and more.

There is plenty of merchandise that people can purchase and engrave, including the miniature sculptures of Sgt. Ted E. Bear; silver, bronze and copper award eagles; various plaques and trophies; as well as personalized name plates and office gifts.

“There are literally hundreds of things people can buy and customize here,” she said.

The center is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. All classes have a cost associated with them, depending on the class, and the center is open to Soldiers, family members, retirees, Department of Defense civilians and contractors.

For more information on classes or pricing, call 255-9020.

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