Veterans enjoy stress management via art therapy workshop

Ceramic art creations brought together veterans and active military members on April 30 in an intimate stress management workshop on campus.

The Stress Management Art Therapy Workshop, hosted by the Veteran’s Resource Center (VRC), provided a comfortable environment to discuss how to deal with stress and share personal experiences.

Krishna Flores, a public health promotion senior, enjoyed the small setting.

“(It’s) pretty cool cause there’s not a lot of us,”

She spent four active years in the Marine Corps and four year inactive.

“It’s really cool when we get together and share something in common and especially when we all can relate to symptoms like stress or PTSD.”

The workshop was led by Thomas Dang, a Marine Corps veteran with an MFA in Art from CSUN. He is currently working toward a master’s degree in microbiology from CSUN as well.

Dang said creating something functional creates connectivity with someone else.

“Creating something from nothing is unbelievable, unbelievable,” Dang said.

Dang discovered ceramics as a scapegoat and began his work with them about seven years ago. He creates work from his veteran experience and is also part of a group of veterans artists called the Dirty Canteens. His exhibits have been displayed in galleries across the country.

While the workshop was geared toward veterans, everyone who attended had not been in the military. Shivon Pazos, a junior child development and psychology double major is a military supporter who says she had been embraced by the VRC.

“Ever since high school, I wanted to be in the military, but I had a health condition that made it so I couldn’t go in, so I’ve just always befriended military people,” Pazos said.

Students gathered around and observed Dang sit at the pottery wheel. He grabbed a hunk of clay, made it into a ball and threw it into the center. His hands transformed it into a unique flower vase.

“When he was making the vase, watching that, it was really cool, it was amazing. If I could do that I would love to,” Pazos said. “I’m pretty sure the first time you can’t do it that good, but it just seems so much fun to be able to mold something. I hope maybe in the future I can do more of that.”

Watching Dang inspired those in attendance to roll up their sleeves, get their hands dirty and try out their skills at the pottery wheel.

“I need to tap into my art skills to express things that I can’t express when I’m working out, this is more emotional,” Flores said.

The second session of this two-part workshop, which was coordinated by VRC peer mentor and CSUN student Laura Hurtado, takes place May 7 and will incorporate guided meditation

Sharon Taylor, a freshman cinema television major, was in the army for 20 years before she retired. A veteran of three wars, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, this was her first time at an event put on by the VRC, but she says that she would consider coming to more events in the future.

“My favorite part was meeting other veterans,” Taylor said. “I’m going to look more into the meditation that they were talking about.”

Dang’s work can be seen at dangthomas.com.