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Our Story

Since 2012, the National Endowment for the Arts has partnered with the Department of Defense and subsequently Veterans Affairs to support creative arts therapies for service members and veterans in military medical facilities. The network has expanded to include community arts programming in the selected Community Connection sites.


The National Endowment for the Arts’ partnership with the Department of Defense dates back to 2004 when Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience was created by the Arts Endowment to help U.S. troops and their families write about their wartime experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and stateside. From 2004-2006, Operation Homecoming provided more than 60 writing workshops to troops and their families at more than 30 military installations in the U.S. and overseas. A later phase brought writing workshops to veterans and active duty troops at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical centers, military hospitals, and affiliated centers in communities around the country. More than 6,000 people participated in Operation Homecoming workshops and related activities.


In 2011, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) Walter Reed Bethesda invited the Arts Endowment to help build out its creative arts therapy program. In 2012, the Operation Homecoming writing workshops became part of the clinical program at NICoE. After successfully piloting the NEA Military Healing Arts Partnership there, the NICoE Intrepid Spirit-1 at Fort Belvoir in Virginia invited the National Endowment for the Arts to replicate the program in their new integrative care facility. The NICoE’s groundbreaking, interdisciplinary approach to working with patients and their families—which ranges from physical and neurological exams, to family evaluation, nutrition, alternative medicine, and creative arts therapies—became the model for the expanded healing arts partnership. The partnership involved support for therapeutic writing as well as multiple creative arts therapies (art therapy, music therapy, and dance/movement therapy) at Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir. 


Congress has encouraged the National Endowment for the Arts’ continued efforts with the Military Healing Arts Network and annual funding increases have allowed the Arts Endowment to expand the reach and impact of this national initiative under the title of Creative Forces to include more than a dozen Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs clinical sites, telehealth services, research, program analytics, an online National Resource Center, and a community engagement grant program.


Collage of photos on an American flag
A Soldier's Heart flag art by Suzan Wallace former Resident Artist at NC Community Connections Open Studio


The impacts of the healing arts are highly personal. The benefits of building community and expressing creativity are seen every day in the improved well-being of our participants. Full Veteran Voices' Stories can be experienced from the Arts Endowment collection.

I can state unequivocally that art therapy has helped me to be a better human, husband, father, and friend. I can also state unequivocally that art therapy has helped save my life.”

- Christopher Stowe

I used music to bypass the injured sections of my brain and to stimulate other pathways in my healing process.”

- Michael Schneider

Art has many forms from painting to sculpting as well as blacksmithing and forging steel…treatment takes many forms as well. Art can bridge that gap.”

- Michael Rodriguez

Art and music are very soothing activities which keep our minds and hands busy, thus relieving some tension and allowing us to open up to some other topics.”

- Marcie McCammond

Music provides a buffer zone where I can feel more comfortable sharing things with others that are difficult to discuss in conversation.”

- Anthony Mannino

My passion for music from before my injury helped me find my words more readily over time. Through music therapy I was able to express my feelings of frustration, love, and thankfulness for the life that was my new normal."

- Andrew Bell

Frequently Asked Question

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