The weekly creative gathering is open for the public to express themselves through art.

The hardest part of convincing someone to try art therapy isn't the therapy aspect, it's the art.

Most people haven't put brush to canvas since they were in high school or elementary school, and the prospect of messing it up can be a crippling deterrent.

Amy Hamilton, case worker and program manager for the Burlington Salvation Army, is encouraging locals not to be intimidated. There is no wrong way to do art.

"Ugly art is the best art. It's just about how you feel," she said.

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That's why she and Salvation Army Lt. Dennis Jolly have started an art program at the Salvation Army headquarters tentatively titled "Creative Self Expressions."

From 1 to 3 p.m. every Friday, the Salvation Army sets out art supplies and encourages everyone in the community to participate — not just Salvation Army clients.

"Each week, we will touch on different behaviors or emotions," Hamilton said.

But those are just suggested outlines, designed to get the creative juices flowing. There is no set format to the weekly art session, and those who attend the informal "drop-in, drop-out" program can do whatever they like.

"If someone just wants to color quietly to relieve stress, they can do that," Hamilton said.

Hamilton enacted the program last week and got nearly a dozen people to attend. Most of them were holdovers from the Salvation Army's free weekday meal, but now that word about the program is getting out, Hamilton expects the number of participants to go up very quickly.

"You don't have to be in need. It is open to everyone," Hamilton said.

She hopes the new program will make Salvation Army clients feel at home. It's a place many come during a financial crisis, and their stress level often is high. By working through other programs designed to help them out of poverty, Hamilton hopes they can view the Salvation Army as a second home.

Of course, no home is complete without some hanging art. Budding artists who leave their creations at the Salvation Army headquarters have already seen their work displayed in the lunch room. Every week covers a different theme and art style, but those who want to work on the same project for multiple weeks are encouraged to do so.

Anyone is welcome to donate money to the program or other programs at the Salvation Army, and art supplies are welcome as well.

"We really need canvases," Hamilton said.

As Hamilton pointed out, the Salvation Army is much more than a food pantry. The worldwide Christian organization offers clothing and amenities to the needy. Locally, the Salvation Army hosts weekly activities such as an archery class at 4:30 p.m. Monday, a women's group at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and adult Bible study at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Free lunch is served at noon every weekday, and the Pathway of Hope program helps with financial and life planning.

To learn more, call the Salvation Army at (319) 752-2692.