137 Veterans from 58 VA medical centers have been invited to participate this week in VA’s annual Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Des Moines, Iowa.
All VA medical facilities incorporate creative arts into their recreation therapy programs to assist Veterans in their rehabilitation.
This 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.
VA’s Central Iowa Health Care System and the American Legion Auxiliary host the celebration and grand finale stage show and art and writing exhibitions, the culmination of local talent competitions in art, creative writing, dance, drama, and music.
Veterans exhibit their artwork and original writings or perform musical, dance or dramatic selections in a gala variety show. All Veterans invited to participate are selected winners of year-long, national fine arts talent competitions in which thousands of Veterans enter from VA medical facilities across the nation.
Over 3,000 entries were judged at the national level of competition in 150 categories of visual art, creative writing, dance, drama and music.
To give you an idea of how popular the competition is: 128 VA medical centers participated in the local competitions with 3,591 Veterans competing. This year, 64 percent of the invited Veterans are first-time attendees and 28 percent are women Veterans.
And because bragging rights are always necessary, here’s the breakdown by service branch.
- Army: 50
- Air Force: 25
- Coast Guard: 3
- Marine Corps: 11
- Navy: 24
- Here are some comments from the Veterans and a few examples of the entries and what it means to the Veterans participating:
Navy Veteran Betty Adams – visual artist: “I got started into wire work after a spinal injury where I lost feeling in my left arm and hand. I use this form of art therapy so my hand will not atrophy.”
Army Veteran Elbert “Buddy” Measles – visual artist: “Never say ‘not good enough’ or ‘I can’t,’ because you are and you most certainly can.”
Air Force Veteran James Scherbarth – visual artist:
“I would certainly be lost without art. I spend a lot of time in my own shop. It really keeps me going. I have a lot of children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren that I make things for. I go to my shop almost every day. I was a woodworker when I retired at 68 years old and have been doing it ever since I am 95 years old now and do my craft almost every day.”
Performer – dancer
Coast Guard Veteran Kaitlin Borri – dancer: “I find that if I am active and stay busy, I am able to be a productive member of society. This is one reason aerial silks have been a great part of my life over the past 3 years. I am able to exercise and socialize, and it gives me the energy and motivation to function in my daily life. I am a recreation therapist, so I find real value in leisure activities such as the aerial arts.”
Performer – singer/guitar player
Air Force Veteran David Boyd – singer-guitarist:
“I use music, specifically guitar and voice, to tell the truth about life. I have played guitar for 54 years, and this has been a central part of everything I have ever done.”
Army Veteran Tonya Whitney – writer:
“I started writing a few years ago. I was attending a female Veteran’s retreat and at the end of it, these thoughts and ideas started coming to me. I wrote them down and read them to the other Veterans in the group. They encouraged me to write. I started a journal of poems and started entering some into poetry contests.”
Women Warriors of Des Moines – visual artists: R. Layne Andrews, Terry Lewey, Jamie McCalley, Carole Rowland, Ann Skallerup, Tonya Stone and Julia Wearmouth.