During interviews and cases studies, participants identified key outcomes from their participation in Creative Forces Community Engagement arts programs:
- Improved artistic skills
- Increased sense of community
- Improved mental health and quality of life
- Increased empowerment
Improved Artistic Skills
“I want to learn to master my craft, improve my writing, explore my needs, and publish my work. I want to teach it to others to tell their story.”
-Community Engagement participant
Participants reported increased artistic skills within the artistic disciplines they chose and some have enrolled in university degree programs for the arts. Several have demonstrated their skills or displayed their work through exhibits, performances, or publications, including entering their art into state and national competitions.
Increased Sense of Community
“It gives us an opportunity to work together as a team and work toward a common goal, which is what you do in the military…There is give and take between actors in the play. You rely on others; they rely on you."-Community Engagement participant
Participants across branches of service and generations, from the Vietnam era to the ongoing Gulf War, created new communities centered around the arts. In many cases, friendships that developed in the studio moved into the community.
“This has enabled me to connect with the outside world and with my family. That happened because I met some new people here, and this program bridged that gap.” -Community Engagement participant
Improved Mental Health or Quality of Life
“We are wired differently, and we have difficulty finding comfort when we walk into a new place. I wasn’t assessing threats here, but I do that [in other places].” -Community Engagement participant
Participants reported the arts activities and relationships they created improved their well-being and quality of life. Engaging in arts activities allowed participants to relax and reduce anxiety and 97% of survey respondents reported Community Engagement arts activities had a positive impact on their mood.
“Besides learning a new skill and understanding a new medium, I can shut off my left brain and use my right brain. It is a chance to relax and focus on me.”-Community Engagement participant
“We need to be around other people doing the creative work, and it tricks us into mindfulness when we engage in a creative project.” – Community Engagement participant
“You take on a role [in a play] that you can put your experiences into, a role that can relieve some stress.” –Community Engagement participant
The arts also helped participants tell their stories, making them feel heard and empowered.
“The program has helped [participants] develop a sense of agency, has made them advocates, and they are not just partaking of the program.”
-Community Connections Teaching Artist
Participants developed leadership skills by volunteering, leading or facilitating Community Connections classes or workshops, or receiving paid employment in the arts, increasing their sense of empowerment.