United States Department of Veterans Affairs
 Health Care
Veterans Using the Arts to Help with Healing
Asian Ceramic Vase
Over 3,000 Veterans enter competition nationwide to the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

Each year, thousands of Veterans compete for a chance to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, a unique event designed to help Veterans use the creative arts as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help them recover from, and cope with, physical and emotional disabilities.

This year, 3,625 Veterans from 122 VA facilities entered the competition nationwide, with 143 of the medal-winning Veterans earning an invitation to participate in the 2010 Festival, hosted by the VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin

Jack Tongen is one of them. He writes poetry and plays the guitar as an outlet for thoughts and emotions he might not be able to express otherwise.

Across the country each year, Veterans treated at VA facilities compete in a local creative arts competition which includes 53 categories in the visual arts division that range from oil painting to leatherwork to paint-by-number kits. Online Gallery

In addition, there are 123 categories in the performing arts including music, dance, drama and creative writing. The creative writing division is a more recent addition to the competition and includes original works in poetry, essay, short story, and personal experience writing.

A national selection committee chooses first, second, and third place winners among all of the entries. Select winners are invited to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival each year.

Ten years ago, Joel Koelsch dealt with his symptoms of war stress by writing, turning his private therapy into a novel based on his combat experiences in Vietnam.

Each Festival features an art exhibit showing the first place artwork from 53 categories. A live stage show, complete with orchestral accompaniment generously provided by the Music Performance Fund, is performed by Veterans who have achieved medal-winning status in a variety of categories from the performing arts divisions of music, drama and dance, as well as creative writing.

Workshops are offered during the Festival week for participants and staff, educating them in a variety of the arts, utilizing the talents of local community artists.

Kimberly Friske uses her art and creativity both as a form of generosity and healing. She has made more than 1000 baby quilts that she donates to those in need. They also earned her two first place awards.

The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival recognizes the progress and recovery made through therapy and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our nation’s Veterans after disease, disability or life crisis. The festival offers a week of learning, exploring, fellowship, and celebration of the healing power of the arts.

Related link:
  National Veterans Creative Arts Festival