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Area veterans compete in the creative arts

Michael Murphy's "Walla Walla Art." He has submitted the sculpture to the Wilke-Barre VA's annual Creative Arts Competition.
Michael Murphy
Submitted Photo
Michael Murphy's "Walla Walla Art." He has submitted the sculpture to the Wilke-Barre VA's annual Creative Arts Competition.

Air Force Veteran Michael Murphy of Wilkes-Barre is especially excited about a sculpture he’s calling “Walla Walla Art.”

“That’s my pride and joy this year,” he said. “It turned out even better than I thought it would.”

He has submitted the piece - a silver star shape made of sliced toilet paper rolls with a stone at the center - to the Wilkes-Barre VA Medical Center’s annual Creative Arts Competition.

Murphy is also submitting a string art piece and some metal work - a new medium for him. He started trying different art forms when he entered recreational therapy for a back injury he’s been dealing with since his Air Force days.

“It keeps the hands mobile… it takes the hands off of the anxiety problems I have,” he said. “It’s actually just a way to improve yourself and stretch yourself a little bit further to find something new to do.”

Amie O’Malia helps run the competition at the Wilkes-Barre VA as chief of the center for development and civic engagement. She’s also a recreational therapist, and says participating in the creative arts - whether it’s painting, sculpting or even writing - can help anyone in their mental health journey.

“It’s learning new skills, it’s identifying things to do with your leisure time,” she said. “It’s, you know, working on different therapeutic processes.”

Joseph Barna of Freeland writes about his experiences in the Korean War. He’s won medals for his writing at the national level of this competition and has compiled some of his stories into a book.

“I believe that…what lies behind me, lies ahead of me. But now it lies within me. So, what’s within me? I use it, I put it to the best use I could,” he said. “And that’s why I write. I’m writing what’s within me right now.”

Applications and entries for this year’s competition at the Wilkes-Barre VA are due by 4 p.m. on Friday, September 1. O’Malia says any veteran enrolled with the Wilkes-Barre VA facility, either the medical center or an outpatient facility, can submit their work.

Sarah Scinto is the local host of All Things Considered on WVIA. She is a Connecticut native and graduate of King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, and has previously covered Northeastern Pennsylvania for The Scranton Times-Tribune, The Citizens’ Voice and Greater Pittston Progress.