The California Arts Council was in San Diego last week to participate in a pivotal regional event. Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is now one of 11 clinical sites nationwide to join the Creative Forces: NEA Military Healing Arts Network, an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts, in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, aimed at leveraging creative arts therapies to improve the lives of military personnel, veterans, and their families in local communities.
More than half a million members of the armed services are currently living with traumatic brain injury or PTSD. Arts therapy integration and community arts programming can play an important role in their recovery, accomplishing goals outside the boundaries of traditional medical treatment. Recognizing California serving as home to nearly 2 million veterans and 200,000 active military members—more than any other state—identifying ways to better connect the two fields becomes an imperative.
The daylong Creative Forces Summit on December 7 rallied together military personnel with professionals in the fields of art and health for a day of presentations, panels, and performances designed to encourage collaboration and ideation in support of military and veteran families. Many locally based CAC grantees from our Veterans in the Arts program were on hand as well, to impart knowledge and offer perspective on developing arts programming specifically for veterans, and to showcase the creative work of veterans involved with their projects.
We were honored to be asked by the NEA to lead the coordination of this event, and we’re proud of the collaborations and dialogue that emerged as a result. The summit inspired many productive conversations, before and during, and continues to provoke thought leaders in the field. It’s clear that California, and the greater San Diego area in particular, is home to many innovative and impassioned people and programs serving our veterans, active military, their families and their caregivers. We’re excited for a future that will take rehabilitative arts opportunities for our military to the next level.
We’re also looking forward to an exchange of ideas with fellow Creative Forces summits being held in other states, taking advantage of one another’s available resources, sharing brainstorms and best practices to allow each site to grow cooperatively while simultaneously customizing concepts to fit each region’s needs.
Thank you to the National Endowment for the Arts for leading the charge on such a vital issue. We’re also grateful to Deputy Secretary Keith Boylan and our partners at CalVet, for their participation and their interest in how the arts can support their mission. And a most sincere thank you to the San Diego Region Creative Forces Planning Task Force, for a job well done:
- Steve Dilley, Veterans Arts Project
- Ray Flores, San Diego Veterans Coalition
- Sheldon Margolis, Veterans Museum at Balboa Park
- Barbara Reuer, Resounding Joy Inc.
- Whitney Roux, City of San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture
- Rebecca Vaudreuil, Creative Forces/Camp Pendleton
- Elizabeth Washburn, Combat Arts San Diego
Check out a few summit highlights below. For more clips from Creative Forces San Diego, visit the California Arts Council YouTube channel.
- Keynote Address – Sgt. Benjamin Tourtelot, U.S. Marine Corps (Retired) and Lisa Fagan (17:33)
- Creative Forces: From Clinical to Community Panel Discussion / Q&A (1:19:12)
- Performance: So Say We All (18:15)
- Performance: The PGK Dance Project (7:42)
Photo by Rebecca Vaudreuil
The California Arts Council's Veterans in the Arts grant program provides project support for nonprofit arts organizations, local arts agencies, and veteran’s assistance agencies to reach veterans, active military, and their families across California. Applications are now open. Visit the Veterans in the Arts page for program details.