Welcome to the Blog Salon on the Arts and the Military
Memorial Day is coming. Back in elementary school, I remember this (and Veterans Day) as the only time(s) we talked about war in a contemporary sense or what it meant to serve your country. Now the politics of war, service, military culture, and their effects on military personnel are ever present in all corners of the U.S. These issues pervade our conversations, float across newsfeeds, fill our TV screens, and sometimes touch even closer to home.
Among organizations that serve veterans, their families and communities, the arts are becoming an increasingly essential means and end to understanding, reckoning, and moving forward. Nowhere has this movement been so clearly evidenced than the April 10th announcement by Americans for the Arts and the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) of a nationwide “Blueprint for Action” designed to make arts programming widely available to service members, veterans, and their families throughout their lifespan, including the continuum of military service. The announcement took place at the second “National Summit: Arts, Health and Wellness across the Military Continuum” at Walter Reed Bethesda, and represents an unprecedented coming together of military, veteran, health, arts and federal agencies to work together to find arts solutions to some of the military’s most pressing problems.
While the national momentum is building to act, the challenges our military servicemen and women and their families face are felt most deeply at home and in their communities. As writer and “former military kid,” Maranatha Bivens, stated in her Animating Democracy trend paper, Art in Service: Supporting the Military Community and Changing the Public Narrative: “…the military is now far from a niche community. Today’s all-volunteer force has 1.4 million active duty service members and nearly 400,000 members of National Guard and Reserve components.” As combat operations come to a close, an unprecedented number of returning service members are joining an estimated 23 million citizens already classified as veterans. The wave of returning service members includes many suffering from physical and emotional traumas, as well as families, communities, and a society in need of ways to understand, adjust, and heal.
From a 2012 infographic, Who are America’s Veterans? http://politicalfiber.com/featured/11/12/infographic-who-are-americans-veterans/
In this salon, we explore the myriad ways the arts are raising awareness of and contributing to a national conversation and spurring action around the military and veterans’ issues. We’re inviting bloggers to share their experience with arts as a path to healing and well being; enriching the public narrative through commentary, bearing witness, and protest; aiding in family and community reintegration; memorializing and commemorating; and even strengthening foreign affairs and ties to communities abroad. Bloggers will reflect a diverse array of artists, veterans and military leaders, government and nonprofit service providers, and others who are engaging the power of arts in innovative, restorative, and illuminating ways.
The week will be divided into daily topics with three or so blog posts per day and featuring compelling artwork by artists from within as well as outside the military. Each morning, you can expect an intro to the day’s posts from me.
So, without further ado, let’s kick off the salon with our first topic:
PROMOTING HEALTH AND WELLNESS
Arts practitioners, including therapists, artists, educators, consultants, and arts organizations, are working across the military lifecycle to provide programs as well as therapeutic and educational services in diverse settings—from military bases to rehabilitation treatment and veterans’ facilities, long-term care, and hospice. Today you’ll hear from:
- Melissa Walker - Art Therapist/Healing Arts Program Coordinator at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence
- Rebecca Vaudreuil - Military Program Director at Resounding Joy
- Susan Rockefeller – Director and Producer of Striking a Chord