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VA Puget Sound Veteran artists continue streak as national medal winners!

Award-winning creative art work by local VA Puget Sound Veteran artists.
Pictured in this photo are images of award-winning creative art work by local VA Puget Sound Veteran artists (top to bottom): Navy Veteran Sean Connolly collage, titled Salty Dog; group project by Connolly, Army Veteran Kenneth Bicha (Connolly’s dad) and Air Force Veteran Dennis Linn (from South Dakota VA) that combines leather, woodworking and acrylic paint in a piece titled, The Lure of the Lore; and oil painting by Army Veteran Gregory Prichard, titled Self Portrait.

This year’s National Veterans Creative Arts Festival drew more than 3,000 Veteran artists -- three from VA Puget Sound Health Care System.

SEATTLE, WA— This year’s National Veterans Creative Arts Festival drew more than 3,000 Veteran artists from 125 VA health care facilities across the country. The categories focused on art, writing, dance, drama and music. Of the 6,000 submissions, three VA Puget Sound Health Care System Veterans received first place honors: Navy Veteran Sean Connolly (individual and group award), Army Veteran Gregory Prichard (individual award) and Army Veteran Kenneth Bicha (group award). 

All the first-place winners were invited to attend next week’s National Veterans Creative Arts Festival being hosted in Denver, Colorado, May 11-18.  

“Creating art helps Veterans heal.  And sharing that art helps support a sense of community, value and belonging,” said VA Puget Sound Art Therapist Kristin Weber.   

Navy Veteran, Sean Connolly took first-for his collage, titled Salty Dog. Connolly used about 52,000 3/16-inch cut leather punches from various materials—from shirts and gloves to couches and purses—across 77 different colors to assemble his portrait collage. The project took Connolly almost six months to complete. 

His inspiration was pulled from his experiences with his local community in Olympia where recycling is big, places he’s been, things he’s seen and that he feels everyone has a story to tell. “You can tell he has some stories to tell,” said Connolly when describing the salty dog—a term he learned in the Navy—featured in his portrait. 

In addition to his individual award, Connolly, together with Army Veteran Kenneth Bicha (Connolly’s dad) and Air Force Veteran Dennis Linn (from South Dakota VA) earned first-place winning for their group art project that combined leather, woodworking and acrylic paint in a piece titled, The Lure of the Lore. This group of artists created a whimsical experience inspired by the region around Mount Saint Helens and Bigfoot folklore. 

VA Puget Sound’s final award-winning artist was Army Veteran Gregory Prichard, a, who took first-place for his oil painting, titled Self Portrait. Prichard shared that he turns to painting to help him get through depressive episodes, which he was experiencing at the time he create his self-portrait.  

Work by all Creative Arts Festival winners and competition participants are featured on VA Puget Sound’s first-ever interactive, online gallery: https://artspaces.kunstmatrix.com/en/exhibition/8125892/2021-va-puget-sound-veterans-creative-arts-festival. The online gallery features photos of the actual artwork submissions.  While original mediums and sizes of the artwork vary, they appear as the same size in the gallery. For art entry details, visitors can click on each item and look to the upper right corner to learn more and to explore the work.

VA Puget Sound also opened its Veterans Art Gallery in September 2023 to recognize the creative achievements and self-expression of local Veteran artists. Located at its Seattle Campus (Building 101 lobby), 22 pieces of artwork are on display to include a group mixed media project by Connolly, Bicha and other local Veterans.

VA Puget Sound has a long history of supporting national, regional and local recreation therapy events and programs to improve Veterans’ physical, social, cognitive and emotional functions as well as quality of life every day. In addition to the annual arts competition, last year VA Puget Sound staff took teams to the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, the National Disabled Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic and the National Veterans Golden Age Games. Regionally and locally, VA Puget Sound Recreation Therapy staff co-hosted Adaptive Curling Clinics at Granite Curling Club and organized Veteran participation in the Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic, adaptive golf clinics and Team River Run kayaking activities. Adaptive fencing, co-hosted with Salle Auriol Seattle, began in 2020. And VA Puget Sound continues to explore new ways to improve the quality of life for injured Veterans.

The Competition & Festival

Across the country each year, Veterans enrolled at VA health care facilities compete in a local creative arts competition. Local creative arts competition first place winning entries advance to a national judging process and first, second and third place entries in each category are determined. Gold medallists are invited to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival hosted by a different VA facility each year.

The competition spans five divisions: art, writing, dance, drama and music. Within those divisions, Veterans can express their creativity across a broad range of categories, from oil painting and leatherwork to paint-by-number kits and glassworks. Local creative arts competition first place winning entries advance to a national judging process and first, second and third place entries in each category are determined. Selected gold-medal-winning Veterans are invited to attend the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival hosted by a different VA facility each year.

 

Co-presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Legion Auxiliary, the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival is the culmination of talent competitions in art, creative writing, dance, drama and music for Veterans treated in the Department of Veterans Affairs national health care system. Veterans exhibit their artwork and original writings or perform musical, dance or dramatic selections in a live stage show performance. All Veterans invited to participate are selected winners of year-long, national fine arts talent competitions in which thousands of Veterans enter, from VA medical facilities across the nation. For more information on how to participate or get involved visit www.creativeartsfestival.va.gov or contact VA Puget Sound Creative Art Therapist Kristin Weber at kristin.weber@va.gov

 

About VA Puget Sound:

VA Puget Sound provides comprehensive care to more than 155,000 enrolled Veterans across Western Washington with a primary care team at one of its care sites: two main campuses (American Lake and Seattle), seven outpatient clinics (Edmonds, Everett, Mount Vernon, Olympia, Port Angeles, Puyallup and Silverdale) and two Community Resource & Referral Centers (Georgetown in Seattle and Renton). As the VA’s 4th largest research program, VA Puget Sound has research in virtually every major clinical department, including: TBI and multiple blast exposures; memory improvement and Alzheimer's Disease; PTSD and deployment health; Parkinson’s Disease; diabetes; cancer; substance abuse; lower limb prosthetics; genomics; and Health Services. Additionally, it has seven nationally recognized Centers of Excellence (in areas from limb-loss prevention and prosthetic engineering to primary care education and substance abuse treatment). For more information visit www.va.gov/puget-sound-health-care or call 800-329-8387.  For Veterans in Crisis, please use the Veterans Crisis line at 988 (press 1).

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