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NEA Announces Inaugural Community Engagement Grants

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with Mid-America Arts Alliance, is pleased to announce the inaugural recipients of Creative Forces® Community Engagement grants, supporting military, veterans, their families and caregivers, for 26 organizations in communities nationwide.

National Endowment for the Arts Announces More Than $750,000 in Creative Forces Community Engagement Grants

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with Mid-America Arts Alliance, is pleased to announce the inaugural recipients of Creative Forces® Community Engagement grants, with support for 26 organizations totaling $750,385. Awards will support community-based arts programming that will expand the work of Creative Forces into more communities nationwide to address the distinct experiences, challenges, and strengths of military-connected populations through the arts. View the complete list.

“I am pleased to see that through the Creative Forces Community Engagement grants, there will be more opportunities for arts engagement available to more Veterans and their families and caregivers, and in more places across America,” said Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough. “It is vital that we care for and support those who have served and the arts can play an invaluable role in contributing to their health and well-being.”

“It is inspiring to see how arts programming is being utilized by local arts organizations and communities to support and promote healing for our nation’s military, veterans, and all those who care for them,” said Dr. Maria Rosario Jackson, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. “Engagement with the arts—the act of doing, seeing, creating, teaching—is crucial to living healthy and artful lives. The expansion of Creative Forces from clinical sites into community settings provides significant opportunities for this critical work to reach more people and make a difference in their lives.”

Creative Forces®: NEA Military Healing Arts Network is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs that seeks to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for military and veteran populations exposed to trauma, as well as their families and caregivers. These grants will increase access to arts activities in more communities and will serve a broad population, including active-duty service members, guardsmen, reservists, veterans, military and veteran families, as well as caregivers and healthcare workers providing care for military service members and veterans.

Todd Stein, President and CEO of Mid-America Arts Alliance, said “we are excited to support these projects that will promote continued healing through the arts for military populations in communities across the country. The art experiences offered show the multitude of ways art can connect and heal.” He added, “Through the Creative Forces Community Engagement Grant Program, we are humbled to have the opportunity to work on this initiative with the National Endowment for the Arts, created in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.”

Creative Forces Community Engagement projects will support non-clinical arts programming. Each project will include an organization with a history of creative or artistic programming and one or more partners. There are two tiers of grants in this round: emerging (matching grants of up to $10,000 for one-year projects) and advanced (matching grants of $10,000–$25,000 for one-year projects or up to $50,000 for two-year projects), allowing for new projects to begin and established programming to expand.

Examples of grantee programming include:

  • A $5,000 award to Arts and Culture El Dorado in Placerville, California, to support Veterans’ Voices Writing Workshop, a free and ongoing writing workshop that offers a supportive environment and the tools needed for writing stories, memoir, poetry, and drama. The workshop is facilitated by experienced, professional writers.
  • A $10,000 award to Caregivers on the Homefront in Kansas City, Missouri, to support Art on the Homefront, which consists of painting workshops in partnership with a local art teacher that support military and veteran caregivers and children.
  • A $10,000 award to Exit12 Dance Company in New York, New York, to support an eight-week creative writing and choreography workshop, bringing together military veterans, their families, and refugees from Afghanistan and Iraq. Participants will share their individual stories through the creation of poems, choreography, music, and prose. A public performance of the works will take place at the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum in 2023.
  • A $50,000 award to Bihl Haus Arts in San Antonio, Texas, to support the expansion of Forward, Arts! Professionally taught drawing and painting classes aim to help veterans by easing emotional and physical pain through arts immersion.

By providing opportunities for engaging in art or art-making, these projects seek to help participants gain a better understanding of themselves and others through creative expression, while increasing their sense of belonging to a community. Participation in the arts often leads to individual and shared sense of purpose, as well as positive self-worth, supporting their ability to adapt and readjust to life’s challenges.

Resources and technical assistance are available on the Creative Forces National Resource Center to all organizations wishing to advance their arts programming to support military service members, veterans, their families and caregivers. Specific resources available to these grantee organizations may be accessed by anyone, including a recording of the most recent webinar, Seeing the Forest for the Trees: Using a Logic Model to Create Clarity.


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