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Veterans share art skills in military-focused showcase

Belicia Adams started PAINT22 to help raise awareness of the high suicide rate among military veterans. She's highlighting veteran-made art at a showcase in Tampa.

TAMPA, Fla. — Not even a 15-hour drive could keep Kaleb Knowles from attending this art show.

“I don’t care if I had to drive from Canada,” joked the Kentucky man.

Knowles left Louisville bound for Tampa and arrived in time for Friday’s art show hosted by Belicia Adams. Knowles, a Marine Corp veteran, is one of multiple veteran artists featured in Adams’ PAINT22 art showcase.

“I got the invite from Ms. Belicia and I couldn’t turn it down,” Knowles on a zoom call.

In a separate zoom window, Adams smiled.

“He’s here!” she said.

Knowles made the trip to take part in Adams’ art show Friday night. It’s put on by her non-profit, PAINT22. It was started by Adams to highlight a growing problem: a high suicide rate among military veterans.

“Our vision is to bring awareness to the suicide rate of Military Personnel,” reads the PAINT22 website. “We lose roughly 22 military members a day. Help support our Heroes through art!”

That message has resonated with veterans like Knowles, who served from 2016-2020 and was injured while performing a training exercise.

It also resonates with civilians in the Tampa Bay art community.

Credit: Belicia Adams

“My own personal mission is like to get everyone to understand that they can be creative and that it can be a healing tool. I think Kaleb exemplifies that,” said Linda Costa, who describes herself as a local art advocate.

Costa lost a dear friend, veteran Elijah Washington. She felt she’s wished she’d captured “his energy” and contributions to the community. She and Adams began talking about host a showcase. That led them to 81Bay Brewing as an art venue.

“It’s been a wonderful experience this time around all around,” said Costa. “I’m grateful to be able to support suicide prevention and awareness and support veterans causes.”

In keeping with the theme of art as healing and awareness, Adams set up an art showcase for Friday at 81Bay Brewing in South Tampa.

From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., dozens of art pieces from multiple veteran artists will be on display. All art is for sale and 22 percent of proceeds will go back into the PAINT22 mission.

It’s a worthwhile event, says Adams, who couldn’t be happier to see great patriots and artists being recognized for their work.

“We are doing this to give opportunities to veterans to submit their artwork because it’s so hard to get inside galleries,” she said. “Hopefully this showcase we’ll be able to prove ourselves.”

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

Adams sent out care packages filled with $100 in art supplies in March 2020 to veteran families so they could continue to create at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If interested in attending the PAINT22 art showcase, 81Bay is located at 4465 West Gandy Blvd in Tampa.

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