Combat Medic to Ceramic Artist: Art as Therapy

 

I’m a disabled (differently-abled) Operation: Iraqi Freedom (OIF) Veteran who found clay after my medical retirement from the US Army in 2011, where I served as a combat medic. It has turned into a business, a passion, and my art has taken on a new purpose. I am passionate about how much my sculpting has helped me and I have an even deeper passion for sharing this amazing self-care concept/activity with as many people as I can. It is important to remember that art therapy is very different than art as therapy, which I teach and practice for self-care. I feel that the daily activities we do at home for self-care can be just as important as the work done in the therapist’s office. We must learn to be okay with taking our health into our own hands, including our mental health. It’s up to each and every one of us to advocate for what we know is in our best interest.

It is important to remember that art therapy is very different than art as therapy. 

Veterans Supporting Each other Through the Arts

Denver’s VFW Post 1 Commissions Glass Poppies from Tacoma’s Museum of Glass “Hot Shop Heroes”

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

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Michael Mitchel, post commander of VFW Post 1 in Denver, Colorado commissioned 100 glass poppies from Hot Shop Heroes at the Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day on Nov. 11, 2018. The poppies will be available for purchase to support the revival and renovation of Denver’s VFW Post 1, our country’s oldest Veterans of Foreign Wars post and home of the only VFW Post Veterans Arts Council.

VSA Texas Distinguished Artist Veterans: A State of Arts & Military Outreach

VSA Texas works with people with disabilities as they access the arts. This can be as a patron of the arts or as an artist. Through our Artworks: Creative Industries program, we meet artists where they are in their hobby or career and act as a resource to move them to where they want to be in that hobby or career. My challenge is to find out what the barriers are for our artists and find ways for each of them to work through those barriers to reach their personal goals. In 2009, we noticed a barrier for Veteran artists within our own services. Veterans in our community were not identifying as artists with disabilities, so they were not entering our art exhibitions or attending our workshops and events. Rather than trying to change their viewpoints, we adapted ours and started programming specifically for Veterans.

The Falling and The Rising

US Army Field Band Connects Civilians and Soldiers Through Opera

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

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"The Falling and the Rising" is a new American opera based on the true stories of dozens of active duty soldiers and veterans at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, The Old Guard at Fort Myer, and Fort Meade, Maryland. The opera chronicles the imagined journey inside the mind of a soldier following traumatic brain injuries suffered during a roadside attack, and was first proposed by a tenor in the Soldiers’ Chorus, Staff Sgt. Ben Hilgert.

Ten Reasons to Support the Arts in 2018

The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts are also a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times. The arts are all about stories—often small, always meaningful. This advocacy season, find your stories and pair them with the research-based findings in the “10 Reasons to Support the Arts.” Yours will be an advocacy visit that is not soon forgotten.

Music Therapy for Military Service Members in Alaska

Second Lady Karen Pence Visits Creative Forces Site at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson

Friday, February 9, 2018

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Second Lady Karen Pence recently visited Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, and observed a Creative Forces music therapy group session as part of her national and international initiative, Art Therapy: Healing with the HeART.

Brush, Breath and Line: A Veteran’s Recovery through the Arts

I am a US Army veteran, artist, teacher, creative soul guide, and like all of us—a work in progress. With all of these things that I feel I am, I know that being of service to others has been and will always be a thread in the tapestry of my life. The many journeys within my life always bring new challenges, self-awareness, and growth. It's been 20 years since my first battle with suicidal ideation and major depression. I've had some relapses since then, but with each fight, insights surface and propel me to more self-discovery and deeper healing. It wasn't until after my last relapse four years ago that I discovered what my “service to others” would be, and that my journey of healing through creativity would be born.

Looking Back and Moving Forward—Supporting Our Veterans Through the Arts

November is Veterans Month, a time to celebrate, honor, and reflect on the contributions of the men and women who have served our country in peacetime and in conflict. Earlier this month, I made my way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for their 14th Annual Healing Arts Exhibit and Symposium, where I was met by the champion of this effort, Captain Moira G. McGuire, and had an opportunity to explore the art on display. My job there was to give the opening speech about the long history of connection between the arts and the military going all the way back to the days of Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, but being surrounded by the incredible artwork produced by the wounded, ill, and injured members of the armed services and their families was the real benefit of being there.

2017 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival

Art from the Veteran's Heart

Monday, November 6, 2017

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Nationwide, VA medical facilities use the creative arts as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help Veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities. Across the country each year, Veterans enrolled at VA health care facilities compete in a local creative arts competition that began in January.

“I write because it is healing, and creativity is the opposite of war.” Peter Bourret, AZ, USMC, Gold Medal category - Poetry

UPDATED! Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts for National Arts & Humanities Month

October is National Arts & Humanities Month, a time to celebrate and champion the arts locally and nationally. The arts are fundamental to our humanity. They ennoble and inspire us—fostering creativity, goodness, and beauty. The arts bring us joy, help us express our values, and build bridges between cultures. The arts are also a fundamental component of a healthy community—strengthening them socially, educationally, and economically—benefits that persist even in difficult social and economic times. The effective arts advocate needs a full quiver of case-making arrows to articulate the value of the arts in as many ways as possible—from the passionately inherent to the functionally pragmatic. To help fill your quiver, I offer an updated Top 10 Reasons to Support the Arts.

“To My Fellow Combat Veterans”

I taught theatre in Lee’s Summit, MO for many years and had the privilege to work with many wonderful students. One of them I truly treasured was Richard Gibson, who went on to enlist in the Marines after high school and serve his country with honor. Richard wrote a letter in response to the budget situation facing the Missouri Legislature this year. From his words, I hope all elected officials realize the value of the arts in education. Adequate funding for schools keep arts programs alive. Public investment in arts agencies allows institutions in large cities and rural communities alike to provide arts opportunities for their citizens.

Tennessee Shakespeare Company Partners with the Memphis VA Medical Association

Healing through Theatre Practices

Friday, September 1, 2017

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In August 2017, the Tennessee Shakespeare Company began working with Veterans at the Memphis VA Medical Association. This program brings together service Veterans with theatre practitioners to use the plays of Shakespeare in addressing combat-related traumatic and re-integration issues.

Dare County Arts Council - Outer Banks Veterans Writing Project (VWP)

OBX Veterans Week in North Carolina

Friday, September 1, 2017

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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.

National Lieutenant Governors Association and Americans for the Arts Sign State Military and Veterans Arts Initiative

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

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On Friday, July 28, the National Lieutenant Governors Association (NLGA) and Americans for the Arts signed a first-of-its-kind collaboration supporting the military and their families. The State Military and Veterans Arts Initiative seeks to increase visibility, understanding, and support for the care of persons across the military continuum (to include active duty and reserve service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers) and the role the arts can play in their health and wellness. 

The Arts and Veterans: A Mighty Force

The Fourth of July is a time to honor and reflect on the determination and sacrifices of our service members in making our freedom possible. Over the years, stories have emerged of how veterans across the country come back—and what they give back—after overcoming sometimes decades of struggles with combat and service-related illness and injuries. Many of these veterans say that the arts saved their lives—but in finding their creative voice, they are also enriching our lives too.

Helping Veterans Build Connections Between Creative Arts Therapy Programs and Their Local Arts Communities Through Telehealth

The past five years have been a renaissance for those of us who incorporate the arts into our work with Veterans. However, as professionals who deeply engage in this work each day, we are aware that gaps remain in the continuum of care provided to Veterans. One such gap is in the transition from clinic to home-based care. Many service members and Veterans receive intensive therapy, including creative arts therapy, following an injury or illness and then return to their own corners of the world, which are disproportionately rural and isolated. 

The Mission of Theater: The Contract of Showtime

There are basic contracts theater makers enter with each other when they start a project. These unwritten rules govern the creation of a piece of theater. We understand that what is shared at a performance is only between those who are there, and although the performance disappears forever once the lights are dimmed, what was shared remains and is carried by the audience. For the veterans who tell their stories through theater, their burdens can become a little lighter, a little more bearable—and that can make the pain of telling worthwhile.

Five Views of the Healing Power of the Arts

This week, Americans for the Arts is sharing the diverse arts and health experiences of five Assistant Scholars and Lecturers at the UF Center for Arts in Medicine in Gainesville. You will read of the joint experience of both patient and artist, the benefits of storytelling among children engaged in a journey of treatment, and the challenge of shaping healthy lifestyles among teenagers with theater, as well as two stories of the arts and healing for Veterans.

Can Programs That Help the Military Save the Federal Arts Agencies?

Making the Case for the NEA and NEH

Monday, March 27, 2017

President Trump's plans to defund the NEA and the NEH move forward without consideration for programs that exist successfully to serve our returning service men and women who have sacrificed physically, mentally, and morally in the service of our country.  With President Trump's plans for an increase in military spending, there will be an immediate and increasing need for the military programs of the NEA and NEH that help military servicemembers and Veterans cope with haunting memories, dis

"She Went to War"

An Autobiographical Performance by Four Female Veterans

Monday, March 27, 2017

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Well known for bridging the military/civilian divide through theatre in cities across the nation since 2008, the Telling Project's recent production of "She Went to War" at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN acknowledged the distinctive and important roles women play on the battlefield.  "She Went to War" was written by Max Reyneard - Senior Writer/Producer and Jonathan Wei - Founder/Executive Director of the Telling Project.

Arts Deployed

Americans for the Arts is pleased to release a new guide, Arts Deployed: An Action Guide for Community Arts & Military Programming, for local arts organizations and artists interested in bringing creative arts programming to military and Veteran communities, their caregivers, and families.

Veterans living in rural areas face many health disparities and have greater difficulty accessing needed care. Heather Spooner works with the University of Florida's Center for Arts in Medicine telehealth-based art therapy clinical demonstration project at the Malcolm Randall VA Medical Center, which addresses the needs of rural Veterans by providing them with supervised art therapy in their own home.

The Second National Roundtable for Arts, Health & Well-being across the Military Continuum

A Plan for Action 2017 -2020

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The second Roundtable of the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military (NIAHM) was held on November 30 at Joint Base Myer Henderson Hall, Virginia to discuss how to bring greater access to the arts and creative arts therapies for military service members, Veterans, their families and caregivers.

Army Veteran Willie Weaver-Bey showcases the healing power of art at the 2016 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. The ex-con turned to VA's at-risk and creative arts programs after serving 40 years in prison for drug convictions. Weaver-Bey is one of more than 120 Veterans who participated in the 2016 festival held in Jackson, Mississippi.

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