OBX Veterans Week in North Carolina

Friday, September 1, 2017

The OBX Veterans Week is a collaborative event on the Outer Banks of North Carolina that celebrates Veterans, active-duty military and their families through the arts. Founded in 2013, the event is in its fifth year and is scheduled to take place November 3-12, 2017.  OBX Veterans Week is organized by Dare County Arts Council in Manteo, NC.

The centerpiece of OBX Veterans Week is the Outer Banks Veterans Writing Project workshop.  The workshop is led by Ron Capps and the instructors of the acclaimed DC-based Veterans Writing Project, a non-profit foundation that teaches veterans and service members how to express their military experiences through literature.  The Veterans Writing Project and the Dare County Arts Council are both listed in the Directory of the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military at Americans for the Arts.

Modeled after their vision, the goal of the Outer Banks Veterans Writing Project (VWP) is to help veterans tell their stories through the art of writing. The 2017 Outer Banks VWP workshop will be led by Lieutenant Commander Jerri Bell, United States Navy Retired, and Managing Editor for O-Dark-Thirty, the literary journal of the Veterans Writing Project. Her assignments included antisubmarine warfare in the Azores Islands, sea duty on USS Mount Whitney and HMS Sheffield, and attaché duty at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia.  

“Writing memoir is an exercise in examining one’s life, or some part of it, in an effort to understand the meaning and impact of our actions and choices,” says Outer Banks Veterans Writing Project Instructor Jerri Bell. “For most veterans, the things we did and the choices we made during our time in the armed forces were critical to our personal and professional growth and development. And whether or not we served in combat, we were witnesses to history and have a unique perspective on our country. The unpublished and published memoirs of women veterans that former Marine Tracy Crow and I read when we were writing It’s My Country Too gave me a new appreciation for the importance of documenting stories of our military service, and their significance for future generations.”

The two-day workshop will be held at the Coastal Studies Institute in Wanchese, NC on November 4-5 and is Free to Veterans. Those interested in attending the workshop can register at www.darearts.org/veterans.

As the program has grown, OBX Veterans Week has expanded to a two-week community effort that features dozens of music events, ceremonies, cultural exhibits and of course, the writing workshop.  The list of local organizations who have helped make the program possible includes the Dare County Veterans Advisory Council, Outer Banks VFW Post 10950, American Legion Post 26, the Outer Banks Community Foundation, North Carolina Arts Council, the Town of Manteo, Outer Banks History Center, the Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series and dozens of national and local businesses.

This year, OBX Veterans Week begins with an outdoor concert on Friday, November 3, sponsored by the Town of Manteo, featuring The Ray Johnson Band.  The program culminates with a special Veterans Day concert presented by Dare County Arts Council and Outer Banks Sporting Events, in conjunction with the Outer Banks Marathon.

In addition to foundation and business support, OBX Veterans Week is one of several North Carolina arts programs serving Veterans that have inspired a new commitment from the North Carolina legislature in the form of the Military and Veterans Healing Arts Grant Program, passed June 2017.  Senator Bill Cook, co-chair of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees on Agriculture, Natural and Economic Resources (ANER) issued the following statement in June:

(The new budget establishes) the Military and Veterans Healing Arts Grant Program. This Program aims to increase access to the arts for North Carolina's service members, veterans, and military families through grants to local arts councils and arts organizations that will partner with military bases, VA hospitals, and veterans service providers. The revised net appropriation for Military and Veterans Healing Arts Grant Program is $75,000 in FY 2017-18 and $100,000 in FY 2018-19 on a recurring basis.

“The Outer Banks has really been leading the way in Veteran initiatives,” says Army Veteran and Dare County Arts Council Board Member Kelli Harmon. “Congress voted to increase funding to the Military Healing Arts Program in 2016 and North Carolina quickly followed with $100,000 in annual grants, as studies continue to show strong support of the Arts helping to heal combat related injuries. We will be hosting the Veterans Writing Project for its fifth year this November, so we're excited that more people are seeing the positive effects that programs such as this are having on our communities. The Arts are helping Veterans find their voice, and we couldn't be more excited or proud to be leading the pack.”

Those interested in getting involved in OBX Veterans Week as a sponsor, contributor, participant or volunteer can contact Chris Sawin of Dare County Arts Council at (252) 473-5558 or DareArtsInfo@gmail.com.

For more information about the Dare County Arts Council and Veterans:  www.darearts.org/veterans