New opportunity for veterans in Kingston to explore the arts

Ryan Hawkyard, far right, is the event coordinator with ‘Soldiers in the Arts,’ a program that helps veterans build community outside of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) through a series of improv workshops and connecting with the arts. Photo via The Roland Gossage Foundation’s Soldiers in the Arts web page.

Veterans and their families are invited to participate in a new arts workshop here in Kingston that allows them to dive into the arts and encourages them to tell their stories in a new way.

Starting the weekend of Saturday, Jun. 1 2024, ‘Soldiers In The Arts‘ (SITA) will be offering a program across five weekends that allows veterans to explore their creative potential. SITA is a not-for-profit organization that offers artistic workshops for veterans and their loved ones. SITA is currently offering programs in Toronto and hopes to expand the impact of the program to members of the Kingston community, having offered programming here in Kingston once before in the fall of 2022.  

Ryan Hawkyard, a Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) veteran, is the project coordinator. Hawkyard has been a member of workshops like these in the past and found them to be a way of letting go of some of the stress his job had caused. He was introduced to improvisational classes and acting classes as a way to reintroduce himself to society post military. In 2021 he started hosting workshops centralized around offering improv-based programming for veterans living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and here in Kingston. Through the workshops, veterans are able to tap into the well of memories and experiences that have coloured their lives through military service.

“They all have stories to tell, and people are receptive to them. I had a problem with this, especially when I started going to improv and acting classes: I didn’t want to tell people because I was still serving at the time,” Hawkyard articulated.

“It was hard for me to come out of that shell. I realized really quick that it is not like the army where they are judging you on this kind of stuff; people are there for the same reason.”

Hawkyard will be assisted in leading these workshops in Kingston by Siena-Heesoo Jang and Alexandra Floras-Matic, both of whom are practising artists and actors with a lot of experience running workshops of this variety. They will be leading participants in a variety of different activities, all involved in dramatic and improvisational theatre. This series is the first of its kind to be done in Kingston, it will take place over five weekends from June through September — five hours on both Saturday and Sunday of the weekends they are held. As the program concludes, the group of participants will be asked to put on a show in a community theatre like fashion. The group will be immersed in devised theatre, as a means to get everyone involved, as participants will oversee the writing, costume, and props for their own production.

“We have had success with the community side of it. We are giving people space to come and try out things that they may be apprehensive of doing in front of civilians — or maybe something they thought about, but acting classes are expensive, so everything [here] is free,” Started Hawkyard.

For more information or to register for the workshop series in Kingston, which kicks off tomorrow and will take place at the Royal Canadian Legion (RCL) Branch 560 location at 734 Montreal Street, visit the SITA website.

Rylie Snider is the inaugural member of the Kingstonist NextGen team, dedicated to fostering the passion and knowledge of local youth writers and reporters while highlighting the vibrant sports, arts, and social scenes of the younger generations in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington.
A Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic High School student, Snider is dedicated to keeping people updated on everything going on in our schools, and her coverage focuses on everything, from local sports and theatre, to fundraising events and opportunities for students in the area.
For more information on the Kingstonist NextGen team, email Editor-in-Chief Tori Stafford at [email protected].

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