PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — From November through Jan. 5, 2022, a collection of artwork by local veteran artists will be on display at the main branch of the Peoria Public Library.
It’s the seventh annual 22VA Art Exhibit, showcasing artistic creations by local veterans ranging from paintings to sculptures, and everything in between, in order to raise awareness about veteran suicide.
“Art helps with PTSD, anxiety, and depression,” said Michael Ragan, founder of 22VA, named after the 22 veterans that commit suicide each day.
Ragan said 22VA helps veterans cope through artistic expression.
“A lot of times, veterans don’t like to talk about their problems. A lot of times, veterans don’t want to reach out to somebody. But you can express yourself through artwork,” he explained.
It’s all now on display for the public to view and enjoy. Ragan said they have so much artwork this year, they will be rotating pieces.
“We try to get them to leave that dark side and do something creative and come to the light side,” said Randy Prunty, co-founder of 22VA.
Prunty said the group is a safe place for veterans to get together and talk.
“As they bring their pieces in, they talk about the relief that it gives them to leave whatever demons they’ve got going on in their mind,” he said.
Ragan said he hopes the art show helps people understand veterans through a different lens.
“I want them to be able to see veterans in a different light, I want them to see that there are many different ways to heal, that art can be therapeutic,” he said.
There will be a reception featuring meet and greets with the artists from 1-3 p.m. on Nov. 20.