Community Engagement Findings
Creative Forces is committed to improving the lives of service members, veterans, family members, and caregivers through community-based arts programming in addition to clinical programming.
Since 2017, Creative Forces has invested in community-based arts engagement activities in order to advance our understanding of their benefits and impacts for military-connected populations who have been exposed to trauma. Creative Forces-supported community programs take place in non-clinical settings and have involved a range of arts activities, including visual, written, and performing arts offered through single events; drop-in programs; and ongoing engagement led by artists in residence, teaching artists, or creative arts therapists. Program evaluation efforts examined the impacts of these activities; explore this section for more information.
Program Evaluation - Key Findings
• Improved mental health and/or quality of life
• Increased capacity and commitment to serve military-connected communities
Community Arts Engagement Activities
In 2017-2018, Creative Forces launched its community arts engagement efforts with nine summits to bring together military and arts communities in areas near Creative Forces clinical sites. These summits provided opportunities for networking, identifying the needs of the local military community, and generating ideas for community arts engagement to address those needs. State arts agencies in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Washington state, and the National Capital Region (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) co-hosted these events.
In response to the lessons learned, relationships forged, and needs identified at the summits, Creative Forces funded ten Community Connections projects taking place from 2018 through 2020 near existing clinical Creative Forces sites.
These projects sought to improve health, wellness, and quality of life for military-connected individuals, including service members, veterans, families, and caregivers. Projects included a range of arts-related services, from pop-up musical performances by service members, veterans, and local musicians to creative writing workshops, and trainings that increased understanding between the arts and military communities.
Community Connections Projects Study
During the implementation of the Community Connections projects, an external program evaluation team conducted a study of projects to inform future Creative Forces programming and the larger field of community-based arts programming for military-connected populations.
While there were commonalities across projects, each project was unique and presented a rich opportunity for Creative Forces to study community arts engagement programs for military-connected populations.
The Creative Forces Community Connections Projects Study used a case study design, a cross-case analysis, and mixed-methods. Research questions guided the study and provided structure for the report. Data collection used a mixed-methods approach, incorporating qualitative and quantitative program-level and site-level data.
In addition to describing project implementation and outcomes, the study offered lessons learned when considering how to enhance community arts engagement programs and to help guide future federal investments to support military-connected populations through community-based arts engagement programs.
Lessons learned that emerged from the Community Connections Projects Study centered around the following:
• The value of ongoing programming engagement
• The need to provide leadership opportunities for participants
• The importance of planning for program sustainability
• The need to develop understanding of military culture
• The challenge of balancing person-centered programming with evaluation needs
• Understanding that many factors influence individuals' participation