By Leah Veldhuisen
Over the summer, CC student Geoffrey Hartley ’19 immersed himself in a program at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center at Colorado College in a way few students get to experience. Hartley filmed a documentary about the FAC’s Military Artistic Healing program, a program that currently has little student involvement. As a part of CC’s summer course the Colorado Documentary Project, a class conceived and taught by professors Dylan Nelson and Clay Haskell, Hartley learned about the documentary genre and how to film documentaries, and was able to make his own movie.
The course is a collaboration between CC’s Film and Media Studies program, Rocky Mountain PBS, and other Colorado organizations, and allowed students to do an externship with a local organization during the course. Hartley explains “after the week-long externship, everyone comes back to class and pitches an idea for a documentary inspired by our experiences.” Each student presented an idea to Rocky Mountain PBS, and then spent the rest of the class organizing, shooting, and editing a documentary. Hartley spent time at the Bemis School of Art and that’s where he learned about instructor Kim Nguyen’s art class for military veterans. “After hearing about the work that Nguyen was doing to provide a creative outlet for military veterans to express themselves and work through their PTSD, I knew that this was a story I wanted to share in my documentary,” Hartley says.
Because he saw art as a frequently overlooked therapy, Hartley says it was particularly important to portray it in film. He tried to highlight the positive impact painting has had on the lives of many Colorado Springs veterans, and the simplicity of art as therapy. Working on this project had a strong impact on Hartley. “I think the most important thing I learned from working with the Military Artistic Healing program,” he explains, “is how art works for each person differently. Everyone can find comfort, safety, or understanding through art, but it truly is an individualized experience and the meaning of art only exists through the individual.” While his documentary was about painting, Hartley also notes that “poetry, film, music, or countless other art forms can provide an outlet that might really help work through troubling issues.”
In addition to learning about this special program at the FAC, Hartley also gained a strong background in documentary filmmaking. All that he learned, Hartley feels, will be essential to pursuing a career in the film industry. View the full documentary, “Just Paint.“