Highlights from Veterans Day 2023

Throughout the Creative Forces network, our clinical team and Community Engagement grantees honored military veterans with programs, exhibits, and performances nationwide.

Date Published: December 12, 2023
  • National Endowment for the Arts
Black and white image of men and women in formal military uniforms with city buildings in the background
Photo by Odyssey Project participant Grisel Luna Photo by Grisel Luna

This year’s Veterans Day celebrations gave the Creative Forces network extended time to honor our veterans. As the annual holiday fell on a weekend, performances, festivals, and presentations took place over multiple days. These activities amplified the voices of veterans and their families. Our clinical team and Community Engagement grantees hosted events across the country. These events showed how the arts improve the health, well-being, and quality of life of service members, veterans, and their families.

Highlights from events across our network

Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana

Man with short brown hair and his eyes closed seating while holding a guitar and singing into a microphone. There are flags on poles behind him.
Photo by Belle Lin-Boily

The Creative Forces team at the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, hosted their Creative Arts Veterans Day Celebration. Music therapist Tonya Jackson and art therapist Kristi Gmutza unveiled a new virtual gallery of works created by veterans for the Creative Arts Festival earlier this year.

During the celebration, veterans featured in the gallery shared their work. Visual artists discussed their art, musicians performed, and actors presented a performance. Attendees also created Veterans Day cards for hospitalized veterans.

Dance/movement therapists at the American Dance Therapy Association

A group of women standing in a circle facing each other with each hand pressed together with the person on either side's hand.
Photo courtesy of Liz K. Freeman

Creative Forces dance/movement therapists and colleagues from the Veterans Affairs healthcare system facilitated an experiential workshop at the American Dance Therapy Association conference in Denver, Colorado on Veterans Day weekend.

The workshop focused on healing across the lifespan. The team showed how clinical care and arts-in-health community programs play a powerful role in healing for military communities. The workshop also included live music, and presenters discussed how program participants connect through kinesthetic empathy and social reciprocity.

Berklee College of Music highlights our music therapists

Creative Forces Lead Music Therapist Rebecca Vaudreuil, an alumna of Berklee College of Music, and Berklee student Adam Rosario were featured in an article highlighting Berklee Music Therapy Department’s reach to military communities.

Rosario is a retired first sergeant with over 20 years of active service in the Army, including combat tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. After completing his degree in music therapy next year, Rosario will begin a music therapy internship with Creative Forces at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage, Alaska, where he’ll work with service members and veterans.

Path with Art Virtual Veterans Gallery

Mixed media sculpture with a silver mask with red puzzle pieces on it and barbed wire across it. The mask is mounted on wood and has wood branches on two sides. One branch has a bracelet and the other has animal prints.
Photo courtesy of Path with Art

The Path with Art Virtual Veterans Gallery presents a body of work reflecting the resilience and creativity of the veteran community in Seattle, Washington. The gallery features literary works and visual art created during Path with Art programs. Path with Art is a Creative Forces Community Engagement grantee.

Visual art in the gallery includes About Face, a collection of veterans’ masks representing invisible wounds. The masks were created during an eight-week workshop led by United States Marine Corps veteran Luz Helena Thompson. Veterans translated their experiences into visual artwork using multiple artistic techniques and media. Learn more about Thompson’s experience as an artist on the NEA blog.

Bihl Haus Arts showcases works by Texas veterans

Woman smiling in front of two pieces of framed artwork on a wall.
Photo courtesy of Bil Haus Arts

Community Engagement grantee Bihl Haus Arts presented Beyond Service, an event that featured ten veterans sharing their poetry and personal narratives about their military experiences. This gathering in Bihl Haus’ gallery in San Antonio, Texas, provided a space for reflection and connection among participants and attendees.

Bihl Haus Arts also hosted the 14th Annual Distinguished Artist Veterans Exhibition in collaboration with Art Spark Texas. This exhibit showcased the work of 21 Texas veterans.

Frontline Arts and The LOTUS Project in concert

An orchestra on stage with a projection screen overhead displaying artwork.
Photo by Ashleigh Cherubini

Frontline Arts collaborated with The LOTUS Project in a concert at the Trenton War Memorial in Trenton, New Jersey. The show featured artworks created by veterans from Frontline Arts programs. The art was projected above The LOTUS Project choir and orchestra and coordinated with the music. The event also featured a pop-up exhibition of veteran artwork in the lobby. Frontline Arts is a Community Engagement grantee. 

Literary Cleveland celebrates veterans’ voices

Cover of a book that says "Celebrating Service: 2023 Veterans' Voices Anthology"
Photo by Santina Protopapa

Community Engagement grantee Literary Cleveland hosted events highlighting Celebrating Service: 2023 Veterans’ Voices, an anthology of essays, stories, and poetry. The anthology features work created during the Veterans’ Voices program, a series of creative writing workshops for military service members to reflect on their experiences, express their creativity, and share their stories.

Veterans Jeremy Streem, Mansa Lamont Bey, Richard Asbury, Debra J. Gipson, and Irene T. Winslow shared readings of their work included in the anthology at Cuyahoga Community College. Bey, Stream, Gipson, and Program Director Michelle Smith were also featured on The Sound of Ideas on Ideastream public radio in Cleveland, Ohio.

Resounding Joy featured on CBS News 8

Woman with short grey hair holding a circle hand drum and a mallet.
Photo courtesy of CBS News 8 San Diego

Community Engagement grantee Resounding Joy’s Sounds of Service program was featured on CBS News 8 in San Diego. Sounds of Service is a program that recognizes and addresses the special needs of military service members, veterans, first responders, and their families through music therapy. “Music has a way of penetrating the soul and really bringing out those emotions and letting one express themselves without any kind of judgment,” said U.S. Army veteran James Swift. Watch the video to learn more.

Josephine Herrick Project Veterans Day Photos

Black and white image of men and women in formal military uniforms with city buildings in the background
Photo by Odyssey Project participant Grisel Luna Photo by Grisel Luna

The Josephine Herrick Project and partner, The Odyssey Project, hosted a photography walk during the Veterans Day Parade in New York City. During the walk, veterans participating in The Odyssey Project’s photography workshops documented Veterans Day activities. Photographers from the program also exhibited life-sized self-portraits at the West Falls Center for the Arts in West Falls, New York. Josephine Herrick Project is a Community Engagement grantee. Here are views of the parade activities from the photographers:

Black and white image of a side view of a man in a Navy uniform holding a flag while an older veteran look off to the right
Photo by Odyssey Project participant Jojo Chen

Beyond Veterans Day: continuing our service

While Veterans Day serves as a poignant moment to honor and recognize the sacrifices of those who have served in the U.S. military, the work of our Creative Forces network extends far beyond a single day. Year-round, our clinical team provides music, art, and dance/movement therapies in military and Veterans Administration clinics nationwide. Our Community Engagement grantees support the healing journey for service members, veterans, and their families and caregivers with ongoing workshops and community engagement initiatives that nurture creative expression, social connectedness, resilience, independence, and successful adaptation to civilian life.

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