Accessibility Statement

History of Community Arts Engagement Activities

Girl smiling with paint on her hands.
Family Day at Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, Virginia, part of a Community Connections project.
Photo courtesy of Workhouse Arts Center.

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, identified the needs of the local military community, and generated ideas for community arts engagement to address those needs. State arts agencies worked with local partners in Alaska, California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, Washington state, and the National Capital Region (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) to host 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, well-being, and quality of life for military-connected individuals including service members, veterans, families and caregivers. These community programs involved a range of arts engagement activities--including visual and performing arts and creative writing workshops--available through single events, drop-in programs, or ongoing programs led by artists in residence, teaching artists, or creative arts therapists.

To examine the impacts of these activities, Creative Forces conducted program evaluation efforts. The impacts and lessons learned informed the development of the Creative Forces Community Engagement program.

Learn more about the Community Connections projects

Community Connection Projects Evaluation Findings

During the implementation of the Community Connections projects, an external program evaluation team conducted a study of the projects to inform future Creative Forces programming and the larger field of community-based arts programming for targeted military-connected populations.

While there were commonalities across projects, each project was unique presenting 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, participant benefits and organizational outcomes, the report 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.

 

Community arts providers who offered programming and the targeted military-connected individuals who participated reported a range of benefits for participants:

• Improved mental health and/or quality of life
• Increased sense of community 
• Improved artistic skills
• Increased empowerment

Organizations implementing Community Connections projects reported:


• Increased capacity and commitment to serve military-connected communities 
• Improved communication with clinical providers 
• Improved collaboration among arts organizations
• Increased community awareness of the benefits of the arts

Lessons learned that emerged from the Community Connections Projects Study centered around the following:


• Partnerships
• 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

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