DECATUR– The Salvation Army has a new program that’s allowing its residents to flex their creative muscles.
Since receiving a grant from the Decatur Area Art’s Council in January, the Salvation Army has been holding a weekly arts class for a handful of residents. The classes are held weekly on Wednesday nights for an hour or two.
One of the classes instructors, Andrea Winston-Lewin says the students have the freedom to express themselves artistically, but there is also a teaching element, “I studied art at the University of Tennessee, I have been involved in the local art scene for many years, so being able to teach these men not only about art, but also art theory and art history, it’s been a rewarding time.”
Men’s shelter director Jeff Mueller says the goal of the program is to give the men something constructive to do with their free time, “Since starting this I have been told that it’s allowed some of these guys to spend quiet time thinking, some of them get to spend the time with their children, and maybe above all else we have seen a positive transformation in their attitudes following the classes.”
Lewin says the art experience of each of the participants differs as well, “Some of these men studied art in college or in high school or have experience painting but others, they haven’t picked up a brush in 40 years. This program is less about artistic talent and more about growing and developing as a person.”
Jonathan Lillyweb has been at the Salvation Army for the past two years and has participated in the art class the past three weeks, he says he has noticed an attitude change in himself, “I loved art in high school, I didn’t go anywhere with it as far as a career, but having this opportunity, it’s been awesome. It’s helped me personally be able to be creative and do something constructive with my time, I haven’t been able to do that in a long time.”
Mueller says they aren’t sure what they are going to do with the art projects once they start to build up, that for now the art is just being displayed around the Salvation Army building in downtown Decatur.