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Tampa non-profit offers veterans online art classes to cope with life of service

The non-profit was started by Tampa native and military veteran Belicia Adams.

TAMPA, Fla. — Belicia Adams is missing her painting parties. For two years, the military veteran has been organizing groups of fellow veterans to create artwork as a part of her PAINT22 non-profit.

“It keeps me going for the mission, which is creating that camaraderie one paintbrush at a time,” she said.

The focus of PAINT22 is to provide an outlet for veterans to express themselves and bring awareness to the 22 suicides by American veterans each day.

“I’ve always had a love of art in all forms,” said Jennifer Harman, who grew up dabbling in oil painting. “I love the mission behind what Belicia is doing. I think there is so much to be said for self-expression when you can’t necessarily put it into words but you can deliver it in the form of a paintbrush.”

Harman spent a decade in the U.S. Navy, mostly in the reserves, and lived through the 2013 Navy Yard shooting. The fears were real for her. Art helped her heal.

“It’s a perfect outlet for them to let out their frustrations,” said Jennifer Moreno, the spouse of a veteran. “Art can be used in so many different positive ways.”

Credit: PAINT22

Adams and Moreno, who pastors a church in Tampa, met through the military in South Carolina. Adams met Harman through an art event at the Straz Center. The connections between art and the military have really bonded these veterans together. 

The PAINT22 art classes, which have been forced online since the COVID-19 pandemic, have offered veterans a way to relieve stress and create something beautiful.

“Knowing Belicia as a soldier and seeing how she’s taken her talents and her gifts and used them in the civilian world is very inspiring,” Moreno said.

Adams was in the Army from 2009 to 2014. She started PAINT22 in 2018 and the non-profit has quickly grown. Her painting parties are typically quarterly and host 22 veterans, to keep with the suicide-remembrance theme.

“I’m in it to win it,” Adams said.

She sent out care packages filled with $100 in art supplies in March to veteran families so they could continue to create at home. Her plan is to continue in-person classes once COVID-19 concerns dissolve.

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