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Cultivating connections through shared passion

Cultivating connections through shared passion

Art pieces created by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Manning, 81st Training Group deputy commander, is on display during an Art Inspo inside the Sablich Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Oct 2, 2019. The intent of the Art Inspo was to create the opportunity to make important interpersonal connections through diversity of thought, expression and individual growth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Cultivating connections through shared passion

An art piece created by U.S. Air Force Col. Heather Blackwell, 81st Training Wing commander, is on display during an Art Inspo inside the Sablich Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Oct 2, 2019. The intent of the Art Inspo was to create the opportunity to make important interpersonal connections through diversity of thought, expression and individual growth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Cultivating connections through shared passion

An art piece created by U.S. Air Force Col. Heather Blackwell, 81st Training Wing commander, is on display during an Art Inspo inside the 81st Training Wing headquarters building at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Oct 2, 2019. The intent of the Art Inspo was to create the opportunity to make important interpersonal connections through diversity of thought, expression and individual growth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Cultivating connections through shared passion

Art pieces created by Keesler personnel is on display during an Art Inspo inside the Sablich Center at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Oct 2, 2019. The intent of the Art Inspo was to create the opportunity to make important interpersonal connections through diversity of thought, expression and individual growth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Cultivating connections through shared passion

Art pieces created by U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Manning, 81st Training Group deputy commander, is on display during an Art Inspo inside the 81st Training Wing headquarters building at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Oct 2, 2019. The intent of the Art Inspo was to create the opportunity to make important interpersonal connections through diversity of thought, expression and individual growth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Cultivating connections through shared passion

U.S. Air Force Airman Jessie Bass, 338th Training Squadron student, views artwork created by Tech. Sgt. Heather Starnes, 335th Training Squadron executive officer, during an Art Inspo inside the Levitow Training Support Facility at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Oct 2, 2019. The intent of the Art Inspo was to create the opportunity to make important interpersonal connections through diversity of thought, expression and individual growth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

Cultivating connections through shared passion

An art piece created by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Heather Starnes, 335th Training Squadron executive officer, is on display during an Art Inspo inside the 81st Training Wing headquarters building at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Oct 2, 2019. The intent of the Art Inspo was to create the opportunity to make important interpersonal connections through diversity of thought, expression and individual growth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Kemberly Groue)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

I have never been good at doing nothing.

I’m envious of people who can sit back and just relax; head buried in a book, listening to music outside on a porch swing or napping on the beach. I have always been a collector of hobbies that keep my hands and mind busy. I like to create, fix, and experiment. I guess for me, being active is how I relax.

About three years ago a friend of mine invited me over to his house to paint with him. This is not something I had ever done because despite being a lover of art and design, my elementary aged daughter has more talent in that department than I do. My friend introduced me to his form of painting and I was mesmerized by the simplicity, yet complexity of the creations. I was hooked and immediately started experimenting on my own.

Inspiration would hit me randomly and I would take impromptu trips to my local craft store to stock up on canvases and acrylics. Once home, I would put in my ear buds, crank up the music and just start painting. I found the vision I had initially would take shape and change multiple times along the way. This taught me that no matter what life throws your way, you can always adapt and change. Things always have a way of working themselves out.

It was my stress relief, my creative outlet and just a place for me to be alone with my thoughts while being creatively productive. I thought that was the net benefit of this hobby until I discovered I could take this one step further and use this as a means to connect with other artists.

In May of 2019, Keesler Air Force Base saw the arrival of new commander, Col. Heather Blackwell. A creative type herself, Blackwell heard stories of artists around Keesler and challenged the 81st Training Wing to create an art show that would showcase everyone’s work and bring them together to discuss their shared passion.

After months of planning, the art show received over 50 pieces of art from 20 military, civilian and dependent artists. I personally submitted two of my canvases to be featured and it was inspiring to see my humble garage paintings on display with other artists who truly have an amazing passion and gift for creation.

The gift I cherished most about the event, though, was the ability to meet people who share my interests, and get to know them on a more personal level. When you ask someone, “Why did you paint this,” chances are, you are going to get a story that touches you. Art oftentimes comes from a place of deep emotion and that emotion is a window into who that person is. There is no deeper connection with another human being than seeing who they are at their core being.

This art show was a venue that allowed us to make connections with people whom we might have never met. Connections like this make us stronger, and show us that we aren’t alone. And these connections are everywhere: book clubs, spouses groups, automotive enthusiasts, dungeons and dragons role-players, anime fans. Everyone has a hobby or interest they care about, and chances are, there are other people on base with those hobbies too. All it takes is that first step to put yourself out there and build the community you need to find your happiness and connection.