Artist with PTSD hopes to help others recover - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Artist with PTSD hopes to help others recover

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As an engineer, Jim Dukes never thought he'd one day call himself an artist. But his life has been anything but predictable.

"I got to the crossroads where I had to decide am I going to be a man with a disability, or a disabled man," he said. "I wasn't going to be disabled, so I had to figure out what I could do."

Dukes was a contractor overseas where he got more than a few concussions and PTSD.  When he got back, a night of drinking ended when he dove into a shallow pool that did more damage.

After two suicide attempts Dukes dug his heels in looking for a lifeline.

"To get something I could finally identify as a positive was crucial to succeeding," he said.
He was broke. He had trouble walking and couldn't drive. PTSD had him constantly on edge and made it hard to focus.

Photography, for some reason, was the outlet he needed.

"When I work with images, it's clear and I can do it for long periods of time without mental fatigue," said Dukes. "It just clicks."

His online gallery landed him in Columbia at the Tapp's Art Center.
"For an emerging artist I thought it had just that look," said Brenda Schwarz with Tapp's Art Center.

The Executive Director brought Dukes in to be the center's first artist in residence.  In August they'll host The Art of Healing, an exhibit featuring Dukes and some of Columbia's art therapists.

"A lot of people in this town who are art therapists don't get a lot of attention, nor do the people they work with," said Schwarz.

Dukes wants to stay for three months. He's already reached out to Hidden Wounds in hopes of starting an art therapy program for veterans. Hoping that they can find similar relief, in an unexpected place.

"it's all about getting it out there and realizing we're all kind of in a messed up journey and let's figure out how we can make it better and get out the other side," said Dukes.

Dukes is raising money so that he can stay and help as long as possible at the gallery. He's started a Kickstarter page to raise money.

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