Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center’s Veterans Art Gallery



 

IMAGE: Jim Stevens with art

A painting of Louis Armstrong creating sonic joy with his trumpet. A Native American Chief made of wire, shadows and light. A triptych of the Twin Towers. A stunning photograph of the Colorado Rockies in Autumn. Intricate bead-work depicting the POW/MIA flag done in red, white and blue. This isn’t an art gallery. It’s the new Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center (RMR) in Aurora, Colorado.

On the way to an appointment at the hospital, patients walk through a main concourse that connects the different campus buildings. All the artwork hanging along this concourse was created by local Veterans, and most of it is for sale. If a piece of art is purchased, the artist receives 100 percent of his or her commission.

Eastern Colorado Health Care System Director Sallie Houser-Hanfelder said, “We wanted to make this medical center a hub for our Veterans, a place for them to come and visit with other Veterans, have a cup of coffee, relax in comfort while waiting for their appointments. With that mindset, we decided to showcase the incredible talents of our Veterans, especially those who participate in rehabilitative creative therapy and the Creative Arts Festival. Hanging the art done by our Veterans seemed like the perfect finishing touch.”

One person integral to making the director’s vision a reality was Army Veteran Jim Stevens, an accomplished artist himself. At the 2018 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, Stevens won first place in the Special Recognition—Physical Disability category. The Native American chief mentioned above is one of his pieces.

Stevens is also director of the VFW Post #1 Veterans Arts Council in Denver, and one of the curators of the art gallery located at the post in the heart of Denver’s Santa Fe Arts District. It was this and his experience as a Veteran that uniquely qualified him to help guide the Veteran gallery project.

“Knowing our experience working with Veterans, the arts, and successful gallery management over the last four years, Mrs. Hanfelder asked me and the Post 1 Commander at that time to meet with her to help the hospital staff with curating, intake and hanging needs for the Veterans art display project she had in mind for the new hospital. With our gallery experience, we were happy to help,” Stevens said.

Stevens worked with VA staff on the artist application and intake paperwork, the selection of the hanging system for the walls, management of art sales. On art intake day, the council also supplied the odds and ends that are always needed for the physical hanging of art works and display cards. During intake, council staff guided Veteran volunteers in the proper labeling of the art and helped arrange and hang it.

Stevens continued, “The Veterans Arts Council  mission is to assist, guide and expand opportunities for all Veteran artists in the community, and helping Director Hanfelder and her staff with this opportunity was an exciting win-win for everyone—including future visitors and patients. We were honored to help.”

Curious about the RMR art intake process?

The first step is signing up for the 2019 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. VA incorporates creative arts into its recreation therapy programs to further the rehabilitation environment for both inpatients and outpatients. The annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery made through that therapy, and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our nation’s Veterans after disease, disability or life crisis. Learn more about the festival here: https://www.blogs.va.gov/nvspse/national-veterans-creative-arts-festival/.

“By participating in the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, the Veteran is not only increasing their creativity, expression and functioning—it also promotes community integration and social interactions with their peers and the public. Therefore, we feel there is no better way to curate the art hanging at RMR than by going through the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival process,” said Recreational Therapist Sarah El Hage.

Artwork intended for facility can be of different mediums, and will be securely hung on the wall or displayed on a locked shelving unit to discourage tampering. For space concerns, pieces cannot be above a certain size, and the work must be appropriate for the setting. Artwork does not need to win or even place in the festival to be considered for display by the hospital’s art committee. Very limited space may be available for pieces created by Veterans not wishing to enter the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, but priority will be given to entries. To find out more about entering your art in the 2019 NVCAF and/or displaying your art in the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center concourse, email VHAECHRMRArtCommittee@va.gov.

Applications for the 2019 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival will come out early January 2019, and the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center selection process will begin after the application deadline. We hope to see your name in the entries and your artwork on the walls.


IMAGE: Jamie (Mobley) DannenJamie (Mobley) Dannen is a Public Affairs Specialist at VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System in Aurora. She is an Army Veteran and a graduate of Kansas State University.

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Jane Mobley    

    I love the article!!!! Very nice

  2. Edward Scott Harrison    

    My email to VHAECHRMRArtCommittee@va.gov

    was rejected saying it is a restricted email. Can someone help me email someone involved in the Art Committee Veteran’s Hospital in Aurora?

    Thanks.

    Scott Harrison

  3. Virginia McCann    

    I was so glad to read the article in the VA News on the display of art work there at the new Rocky Mountain VAMC in Aurora, CO. I was lucky to have taken a self-guided tour of the facility and art gallery on my way back to the Gulf Coast thinking how great it would be to have the Biloxi VAMC implement such an exhibit did there in Aurora, CO. Being a Veteran I know that there is a lot of art-media talent here to have that happen. Thanks again for sharing the article.

  4. Michael J Snyder    

    Great idea! How can establish a Veterans Art Gallery in San Antonio, Texas?

  5. Teresa Johnson    

    Just when I had drive time, campus locations and such down for the drive to the Denver facility, they finally complete and open the Aurora facility. First time driving was a bit of a strain from Colorado Springs to Aurora – new road, new facility to navigate to get my husband, a Vietnam combat veteran, to his appointment on time.
    Once there, still edgy, things started get better with transportation assistance from the parking garage to his appointment location, the warm and friendly and completely understanding escorts. The appointment would take 4 to 6 hours. During that time, I found my way to the cafeteria to grab hubby a bite of lunch. I found myself standing in amazement at the art work displayed. One of the escort volunteers informed me it was all veteran produced through the program using art as healing therapy. I’m a crafter and artist of sorts myself, multi mediums over my life, so I appreciated the time and thought that went into many of the pieces I saw. Because of time constraints, I could only tell my husband of the art. It was another visit that allowed us time for me to casually push his wheelchair down the concourse and back the other side to view the art displayed. I urge anyone who has the opportunity, please go, look – really look. If proper time is taken, you can “feel” the healing this program provides participants… and if you are like me, you will see the healing it gives veterans observing this art.

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