Veterans connect at Cochise College Ceramics Class


Tim Brown at the Cochise College Douglas Campus ceramics studio.

Cochise College Center for Lifelong Learning and the college art department are partnering with Vetart.org to bring free ceramics classes to veterans.

The classes are intended to not only teach creative skills, but to utilize the process as a medium to connect veterans with each other and the community. The class is also said to bring creative and healing support to veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars as well as to their families.  

The class, located on the Cochise College Douglas Campus, is taught by college art instructor, Tate Rich.

“I think this is a great opportunity, being able to offer a class with all the materials, training, and the firing for free. I think it’s really amazing to provide this to people who serve our country,” Rich explained.

The class is helping veterans like Tim Brown. Brown is a retired Chief Petty Officer and served 20 years in the military. Currently, Brown works as an insurance adjuster and lives in Tucson. He makes the drive down to Douglas every week to get his hands dirty and get in touch with his creative side.  

“Right now we are molding pots. We learned about coiling and slabs, and we tried sculpting,” Brown explained. “Next Wednesday we are going to start learning about the glazing process.”

“Part of the reason I attended this class was because, let’s just say, I needed a kind of distraction in my life, and it was time to kind of try something new. I sit behind a desk a lot, so I thought it would be good to do something creative,” Brown said.

The ceramics class is also helping Sarah Makin, the spouse of a retired helicopter pilot, Makin says that the class creates a great atmosphere to try something new.  

“The first day of the class all we did was go around the room and introduce ourselves and tell a little about why we were taking the class, and it really kind of got us to get to know each other,” Makin explained. “We don’t really talk about our experiences with the military, but we laugh together, and it’s a great group of people.”

VetArt.org began in 2009 when Steve Dilley offered military veterans free classes in ceramics at Grossmont College. Eighteen months later, he left Grossmont and established the Veterans Art Project, which since 2011 has helped more than 200 veterans, free of charge, at five locations in San Diego and Arizona. The entire program is underwritten by an anonymous donor who Dilley said is committed to helping other military vets like him.

“Art is nonverbal, so you don’t have to talk to anyone and tell them how you’re feeling,” Dilley explained. “Your work shows me how you feel. Also, it’s very process-oriented. It requires you to make a lot of choices and decisions every step of the way, so it keeps your brain focused. Also, there’s an ambiguity to art. You never know how it will come out, and that’s the same with the military. Making new discoveries as you go along is a way to find something within yourself.”