The Xena Project Launches Family-Focused Art Therapy Program

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Beasley, Texas – The Xena Project celebrated Independence Day with the launch of a family-focused art therapy program, the only of its kind in the local area.

Through the art program, veterans and their children are offered the opportunity to create something tangible together; by using animals and the natural world around them as subjects, kids can use art to become more comfortable around the horses, goats, llamas, and other creatures that are part of activities at The Xena Project.

“I had no idea my husband could paint like that,” reflects a young wife of her husband, an Army veteran with an extensive combat history. “He’s been away from our family for so long, I know it is hard for him to relate to the kids. Putting a project in front of them gives them something to talk about, and I can’t believe how close my daughter got to that horse! She is usually quite fearful… this is an incredible experience and we can’t wait to come again.”

That is exactly the reaction team members hoped for.

“The family unit is always impacted by service to our country, whether the service member has deployed multiple times, sustained injuries in combat, or is simply struggling to communicate and identify with their loved ones,” says Jan Shultis, founder of The Xena Project, daughter of a career Marine, and herself a Navy veteran who served with the Army in Afghanistan. “We strive to offer families a safe place to relax, enjoy time together, engage in common experiences, and participate in activities that open new avenues of expression. The creative process is extremely powerful. We are already seeing families come together to produce a finished product; we are watching as they learn more about each other’s point of view, and we are humbled to see some work produced that clearly has deeply rooted, personal meaning.”

Participating artists use animals as their subjects, forcing them to calmly observe the body language and movement of the horses or others before them.

“Fear of animals is a barrier to participation in The Xena Project, yet those who are hesitant are often those who could find the most benefit from what we offer,” elaborates Shultis. “As they pick up paint brushes and pencils, previously timid children are making requests to come closer to a horse or other animal to pet it, feel how the muscles come together, learn more about how the animal moves. Shy kids are asking questions about their equine model’s body language and behavior. Across the board, these young artists are then asking when they can learn to ride, care for animals, or otherwise form a more in-depth relationship. They are walking down this path with their parents, as a family. Success!”

The launch of the art therapy program is supported by grant funding from Fort Bend Cares, a charitable foundation dedicated to helping disadvantaged youth in the local community with integrity and compassion.

The Xena Project is a veteran-operated 501(c)3 that facilitates healing for veterans and their families through equine and animal therapy. Fundamental programs include Veterans Group Days, Private Sessions, Family Reunification, and Animal Encounter Therapy. Art therapy is incorporated into each of these offerings.

Located near Houston, The Xena Project is the only initiative of this kind in the country, and attracts a broad spectrum of needs, including veterans struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The inclusion of cutting-edge simulation technology makes the organization uniquely able to serve individuals with traumatic physical or brain injury.

All services are provided free of charge to veterans and their families. The Xena Project regularly welcomes those who served in Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as veterans and families simply moving through life in ways uniquely impacted by military service. Learn more at xenahorse.com.

To learn more about Fort Bend Cares, please visit fortbendcares.org.

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Check out this slideshow for images from the first few families to participate in the art program:

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During their visit, families also spent some time with the animals and enjoyed the relaxing environment:

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