Artfully Facing Trauma | Road Home Program

On View: August 30- September 17, 2023

Art therapy is an integral component of Rush University Medical Center’s Road Home Program Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP).  Veterans diagnosed with PTSD travel from all over the US to attend the two week program and receive a variety of health services that target the root cause of PTSD and help individuals learn to manage and even eliminate symptoms.  Treatments veterans receive include individual Cognitive Processing Therapy, group therapy, mindfulness and mindful movement instruction, cognitive health training, and art therapy.

Art therapy allows individuals to process experiences in a non-verbal way.  Individuals can choose elements of design and symbolism to represent thoughts, emotions, or memories that may be difficult to verbalize.  The process often encourages mindfulness and confrontation of material someone might be more inclined to avoid.  One of the symptom criteria for PTSD is avoidance, and a part of treating this symptom is confrontation, or avoiding the avoidance.  It’s difficult to avoid thoughts and feelings when they are in physical form in front of you.  This is one of the reasons art therapy might be so useful in treating PTSD.

Veterans participating in the IOP participate in the art therapy directive of mask-making.  They are encouraged to consider their public and private selves, or the way the world sees them and the way they see themselves.  The public and private self are often competing sides of a veteran’s persona.  Both sides of the paper mask are used to convey these themes using art media, and the art therapist provides support during the process.  Veterans are often surprised by art therapy if they haven’t participated in it before.  After working through pre-conceived ideas of what art is supposed to be, or who an artist is, the ideas begin to flow and a meaningful art piece is made that expresses something possibly buried deep inside.

After 4 working groups, veterans then engage in an art therapy process group to discuss the art making process and share the meaning behind the masks.  Having a visual representation of internal experiences often helps individuals express themselves more fully and in specific detail.  Veterans share their artwork with the group and they might find similar images and themes.  This can be an intensely validating experience.  The veteran artists are then encouraged to decide what to do with the artwork.  They choose to either take their artwork home or to donate to the RHP collection to be used as an example for future veterans. 

The artwork displayed in this exhibit has been intentionally donated to inspire future veterans to express themselves, or to show civilians what they have been though.  The artists signed an official release form, allowing public display of the artwork while retaining anonymity.  To protect the privacy rights of RHP patients, identifying information will not be released.  You will, however, be able to recognize the era the veteran served.  We encourage you to spend time with each piece and bear witness to the artist’s message is trying to convey.  Some content may be difficult to digest.





This exhibition will be held in the First Floor Gallery of the Evanston Art Center (EAC). Masks are optional but strongly recommended for students, visitors and staff.

Gallery Hours

Monday–Thursday: 9am–6pm

Friday: 9am–5pm

Saturday–Sunday: 9am–4pm


Artwork sale proceeds benefit both the artist and the Evanston Art Center. If you are interested in purchasing artwork on display, please contact Emma Rose Gudewicz, Director of Development and Exhibition Manager, at [email protected] or (847) 475-5300 x 102.

This project is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency and EAC's general membership.