The Arts and the Military: Transforming War Experiences through the Arts.
Arts, Military + Healing: A Collaborative Initiative, in Washington, DC, May 13-18, 2012, unites the resources of artists, veterans’ organizations, art schools, and national cultural institutions. By bringing artists and art therapists to military communities, we support and value the totality of their contributions to American life. This six-day long series of workshops and public events promote creativity, wellness, and resilience in military communities. Artist-led workshops are intended to particularly attract veterans, service members, and military families of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as professional artists and art therapy specialists who are now working, or hope to work, within military communities. Art exhibition, tours, film screening, dance and theater performances, as well as documentary film project offer a variety of opportunities for exchange and discovery. Project collaborators are located throughout the metropolitan DC area.
Art making for healing and well-being has a long and honorable tradition with the U.S. military. Throughout the twentieth century service members and veterans have used art making for rehabilitation, vocation, and recreation. As early as World War I arts and crafts making were used as rehabilitation tools for the war wounded through occupational therapy and vocational training. Beginning with World War II concern for the well-being and morale of active duty service members was addressed institutionally when arts and crafts centers opened on military installations throughout the world. In fact, it was in Washington, DC, at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, that metalsmithing artist Margret Craver, set up one of the first art/therapy workshops for veterans.
To continue this honorable tradition, Arts, Military + Healing provides opportunities for collaborative arts-focused programming that will foster bridges between three important yet often disparate worlds – the military, the healing arts practitioners, and civilian arts and crafts professionals. Workshops, theater and dance performances, a film screening, an exhibition, a lecture on the history of the arts and the military, and opening and closing programs provide opportunities to highlight the myriad ways in which arts and crafts and the U.S. military intersect. This event was planned to coincide with such traditional Washington, DC events as the 6th Annual GI Film Festival, the 25th Annual Rolling Thunder, and numerous Memorial Day commemorations.
After nearly nine years in Iraq, and the conflict in Afghanistan still ongoing, today’s service members and veterans are experiencing unprecedented effects from repeated deployment. From physical wounds to the mental distresses of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury (TBI) service members and veterans, as well as those caring for them, are using an unprecedented number of alternative therapies, including many kinds of arts therapies. Beyond the military’s response to these wounded warriors, many artists and service organizations are also heeding this call. In the past ten years, arts initiatives focused on returning veterans have sprung up all over America: Combat Paper Project, The Joe Bonham Project, Veteran Artist Program, The Telling Project, Warrior Writers, to name only a few. Like the Red Cross Arts and Skills Program of the World War II era, these groups are also making a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of America’s returning veterans.
Great art involves emotions, vision, risk-taking, and perseverance. Veterans are well positioned to respond to an artistic calling as they have experienced profoundly human and tragic events and have persevered. While the work can be raw, its promise can be realized over time through in-depth training, as well as through artist-mentor relationships and community partnerships. We hope the Arts, Military + Healing initiative gives veteran artists the foundation to forge ahead; to create art that expresses their experiences, educates the public about the effects of war, and is healing for the individual and the nation.