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2013 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival

Veterans stand talking by a painting

“A chance to demonstrate the depth of artistic talent our nation’s Veterans possess.”

by Hans Petersen, VA Staff Writer
Monday, October 21, 2013

For Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran John Barrett, VA’s National Veterans Creative Arts Festival is an opportunity to, “Not only share my talent with other Veterans, but to also experience their work.”

The 2013 festival takes place this week in Reno, Nevada and is the culmination of talent competitions in art, creative writing, dance, drama and music for Veterans treated in VA’s national health care system.

John Barrett knows and understands the importance of camaraderie and support from fellow Veterans. They evacuated him after he was hit by a 90 mm mortar in Vietnam where he sustained shrapnel injuries in his chest and side. It was during that crucial moment in Barrett’s life when he learned a lot about the strength of optimism and his own character.

And that optimism, along with his creativity, candor and ear for great sound, are the reasons he has been invited to sing numerous times at the Veterans Creative Arts Festival. Last year was his fifth performance.

Barrett is no stranger to the stage. He has performed his repertoire of Elvis Presley hits solo on four occasions and once at the dignitaries show. His accomplishments include four gold medals for first place and a second-place silver medal last year.

The festival evolves each year as it showcases the artistic achievements of our Veterans.

Therapeutic Benefits of the Arts

The key purpose of the National Veterans Creative Arts competition and Festival is to recognize Veterans for their creative accomplishments and to educate communities throughout the country about the therapeutic benefits of the arts.

According to Festival Program Director Elizabeth Mackey, “It’s a wonderful time to get to know people from around the country who all share a love for the arts. It’s also a chance to demonstrate the depth of artistic talent and skill that our nation’s Veterans possess and how artistic expression promotes healing and enhances quality of life.”

In 2013, there were 3,383 Veterans from 119 VA medical facilities that entered the art, music, drama, dance and creative writing competitions. Of those, approximately 150 medal-winning Veterans earned an invitation to participate in the 2013 Festival. The staff and volunteers of the VA Sierra Nevada Health Care System take great pride in welcoming the 2013 Festival participants and their guests.

The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival continues to evolve each year as it showcases the artistic achievements of Veterans from across the country in each of the five artistic divisions. 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 artistic modalities by utilizing the talents of local community artists. There is no competition at the festival itself, as it is a showcase for previously judged medal winners.