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Celebrating the Healing Power of the Arts

Man with painting

Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran James Williams says painting is therapeutic for him.

National Veterans Creative Arts Festival Coming to Boston in October

For some Veterans, it’s a painting of their daughters.

For another, it’s a short story he held inside for years.

And for others, it’s belting out the blues on stage.

Thousands of Veterans across America find hope and help in the arts. 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.

The beautiful results of these various forms of therapy are on display every year at local VA medical centers and finally at the National Creative Arts Festival where more than 120 Veterans are invited to showcase their talents.

This competition recognizes recovery made through therapy and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our Nation’s Veterans.

The national festival will be in Boston in October but competitions are underway all year around the country. Last year, 3,857 Veterans from 122 VA facilities entered the competition nationwide, with 147 of the medal-winning Veterans earning an invitation to participate in the 2011 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

The 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.

Here’s an early look at some of the local level 2012 participants.

Washington DC

At the Washington D.C. VA Medical Center, one room was turned into an art gallery where more than 90 original works crafted by talented Veterans were on display. The unique exhibit is called “Art Heals Broken Lives.” The art on display ranged from oil paintings and sculpture to pottery and models.

Woman with collage sculpture

Ms. Goodwin created her winning artwork from used soda pop bottles.

St. Louis

The First Place Winner at the St. Louis VA Medical Center Fine Arts Division, in the "Knotting" category, was the entry titled, "Trout Naturals."

Box of fishing flies

“Trout Naturals”


At the New Mexico VA Health Care System in Albuquerque, New Mexico, singers and songwriters like Bill Watts, pictured here, were featured in the Performing Arts competition of their local Veterans Creative Arts Festival.

Man playing guitar and singing

Bill Watts


A colored drawing by combat Veteran William Haviland took "First Place" in its category at VA Boston's Local Veterans Creative Arts Festival. “The Village,” by Haviland represents one example of the many creative art entries at the VA Boston Healthcare System Local Creative Arts Festival Competition.

Painting of a village

“The Village” by William Haviland

Colorful, informative videos are available for viewing on the Creative Arts home page.

VA medical facilities incorporate creative arts into their recreation therapy programs to further the rehabilitation milieu for both inpatients and outpatients. This annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery made through that therapy, and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our Nation’s Veterans after disease, disability or life crisis.

More information is available here: