Americans are commemorating and celebrating our Armed Forces during the entire Holiday Season – kicking off with National Veterans and Military Families Month in November. In this season of thanksgiving, it is an appropriate time of year to recognize those who have served and the sacrifices they and their families have made for the sake of our security. In return for their sacrifice, we must do all we can to support them.
That is where the arts can play an important role. From preparing for duty and employment opportunities after service, to entertainment and mental health, the arts are essential for the well-being of service members, veterans, their families, and caregivers. Creative arts therapies are proven to increase the recovery rates of service members returning home with physical or mental injuries, and arts-based activities can facilitate their transition to civilian life and foster meaningful and supportive relationships.
Many artists, arts therapists and arts organizations in Chattanooga are proud to be engaged in the lives of veterans and their families through the arts. Here are just a few examples:
Scenic City Clay Arts is honored to provide free monthly clay programs to active, former, or retired military individuals and their families. On the 1st and 3rd Fridays of each month, SCCA hosts military individuals and their families for a free open studio workshop, led by an instructor who is a certified art therapist. These workshops allow individuals and families to experience a creative safe space with fellow active military or veterans who share similar walks of life, giving them a sense of community and connection, while providing a creative outlet to release any stresses or pressures from everyday life. "Whether students are using these workshops for an escape from the day-to-day routine or a therapeutic release, SCCA is here to support and give back to anyone who has served our country. By providing these programs at no cost, we are able to break down financial barriers that may have prevented people from experiencing clay arts and all its benefits," said Joy Key, Executive Director of Scenic City Clay Arts. Scenic City Clay Arts also provides discounted studio membership rates for veterans.
The Chattanooga Symphony & Opera in partnership with Soldier and Sailors Memorial Auditorium created the free Veterans Day Concert in 2012 to honor our area veterans and their families, and to serve as a musical gift to our community. Audience members enjoyed the 10th annual Veterans Day Concert this year on November 11th. The concert’s program includes patriotic tunes and the Lee University Singers. Samantha Teter, Executive Director of the CSO says, “I am thrilled that the CSO has helped to honor our area armed forces veterans for the past 10 years with this free Veterans Day Concert. We wish to continue to honor the bravery and dedication of veterans serving our country for years to come.”
Freedom Sings USA is a unique program that pairs professional songwriters with veterans, active military, and their families to help them tell their stories through song. The organization offers six classes per week in Chattanooga, teaching veterans the art of songwriting. Participants in the classes learn how to organize their thoughts and transform them into music, supporting each other through the process. This songwriting process and peer support helps bring emotional balance as one tool to cope with trauma or readjust from military service. Cam Busch, an artist and art therapist who works with the organization, says "The veterans in the regular Tuesday night and Wednesday morning weekly classes are an inspirational vision of courage and bravery, as each takes a turn on the ' hot seat' to tell their story of experiencing the traumas of war and the aftermath which lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Each veteran’s story is transformed into a song. The songwriting is a team effort with help from fellow veterans, two amazing hit singer/songwriters from Nashville – Don Goodman and Steve Dean – and Bobbie Allison Standifer, the organization’s executive director. The veterans often say that these sessions are a lifeline for them.”
ArtsBuild, a local nonprofit whose mission is to build a stronger community through the arts, has supported each of these organizations and others through grants and project support. ArtsBuild encourages Chattanoogans to learn more about these groups and others doing amazing programs with veterans and how to support them. From Bob Hope and the USO performances around the world, to the Monuments Men, the arts and our nation’s military have always been connected in service to our country and the world. Local arts and culture organizations are continuing this tradition by serving our veterans and their families in Chattanooga. ArtsBuild supports their efforts and is thankful for the service and sacrifice of veterans in Hamilton County. To learn more about the work of ArtsBuild, visit https://artsbuild.com/.