Artist John Sebelius has created an arts-based program for veterans who have experienced military-related trauma leading to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, substance abuse, and other challenges. Through a creative healing process he provides both mental and physical space for veterans to learn new skills and explore their emotions, histories, and health needs.

Sebelius runs the class on a volunteer basis, and this funding will allow him to spend critical time enhancing the course. The Rocket Grants Award will help him to develop new tactile components through more challenging 3-D/mixed-media materials, as well as large-scale collaborative projects. It will also bring stories of healing to the public through an art show entitled MIXED MEdia: A Healing Arts Journey for Veterans, and this will be sited at the Historic Harley-Davidson facility in Topeka in April 2019.

The majority of veterans in his classes have no past experience with art and have trepidation about their creative abilities, but regardless of previous experience there are significant physical and mental therapeutic properties connected with working with one’s hands to manipulate materials. Sebelius has seen a profound change in individuals after they have completed the class: they are positively affected by creative exploration and are engaging in a holistic approach to healing that builds on self-reflection.

Though the nature of healing from trauma is inherently private, the Mixed MEdia showcase will respectfully share this creative healing process with a wider public audience. Sebelius has chosen the Historic Harley-Davidson facility, with which he already has an established relationship, to showcase veteran artwork in an unconventional and easily accessible way. In order to ensure that veterans are recognized and honored throughout the entire process, there will be a private opening of the showcase first, and consent will be obtained from veterans who are interested in sharing their artwork and stories with the public. By this means, Sebelius hopes to build authentic support that will carry the dialogue about healing into the community at large.

Sebelius believes that investment in this program from initiatives such as Rocket Grants will signal to veterans and their care systems that the greater Kansas City-area community values arts-based healing, and both supports and salutes the service of these brave men and women.

John Sebelius is an interdisciplinary artist and filmmaker who holds a MFA in drawing and painting from the University of Kansas and BFA in illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design. Sebelius’s work has been featured in many national venues, including Harper’s, The Washington Post, and The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. He has shown work in galleries around the world, and had a solo exhibition at the Gonzo Museum (Aspen, CO).

Sebelius’s short documentaries have screened at film festivals in the US and abroad, and the citizens of Lawrence, KS voted him the Best Artist of 2017. The Kansas City Chiefs selected him as the featured artist for My Cause, My Cleats 2018 and over 200 veterans have participated in his Artistic Expressions Healing Arts Initiative art class. Sebelius lives with his wife Allie and dog Norman in Lawrence, Kansas.

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