Nationwide, Department of Veterans Affairs (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 treated at VA facilities compete in a local creative arts competition. This competition includes more than 53 art categories that range from oil painting to leatherwork and even paint-by-number kits. In addition, there are 120 categories pertaining to all aspects of 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 then invited to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival each year.
The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival is a week of learning, exploring, fellowship and celebration of the healing power of the arts. Because the gold, silver or bronze medal winners are already selected to participate in the Festival, there is no competition at the event itself; rather, it serves as a showcase for the top national winners. During the week of the event, participants may attend classes in fine, applied and craft art, all taught by local artists. As part of the Festival, Veterans also visit a variety of local attractions including art museums and galleries, as well as other sites of interest to area visitors.
The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival is presented each year by the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the American Legion Auxiliary.