“Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in,” said poet Robert Frost. But what happens when “home” feels like an alien place when you have to go there after discharge from military service?
A multi-media, arts-focused campaign launched in June aims to answer that question by promoting dialogue about the challenges faced by veterans transitioning to civilian life.
Funded by a $25,000 grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the multi-year Veterans Coming Home initiative finds three organizations — WFYI Public Media, the Herron School of Art and Design's Art Therapy Program and the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library — partnering on a variety of programming, including video profiles of local vets and a panel discussion with vets who have benefitted from art therapy (to be held Nov. 8 at the Central Library as part of Spirit & Place).
The initiative kicked off Oct. 30 at the Milano Inn where, in 1947, WWII veteran Donald Peters painted a mural of the Allied Liberation. WFYI's Clayton Taylor observes that like Peters' mural, WFYI's video profiles “capture how art serves as a turning point in the lives of servicemen and women. I think viewers will come away from watching them feeling hopeful and uplifted.”
Some of the profiles, created by Kim Jacobs and Leigh DeNoon, are already available for viewing on the project's website, wfyi.veteranscominghome.org. They'll eventually be “stitched together,” according to Taylor, into a documentary that will air on WFYI's TV channel.
Here's a sampling of profile subjects:
Andrew Schnieders, on active duty with the Indiana National Guard in Iraq, had trouble adjusting to being back home. He shares his successes through art therapy offered at the Veterans Administration in his profile.
“Dusty” retired from the Indiana National Guard after 30 years. Working with clay and paint helps her deal with issues she has “pushed down.”
Q Artistry collaborated with IU Research and the Veterans Administration. Seven veterans with PTSD and traumatic brain injuries worked alongside a professional actress to create a performance called Altered.
Kris Bertrand served in the Navy 25 years ago. A victim of sexual trauma while stationed in San Diego, working with clay and ceramics at the Indianapolis Art Center has helped her cope.
Elderheart is a nationwide nonprofit organization that creates public art to help veterans make a transition into their communities. The group installed a sculpture of 22 leaves in Nashville, Indiana, at the site of the Professional Building. Each leaf represents the 22 suicides each day by veterans.
Josh Bleill lost both his legs and nearly his life in Iraq. During his recuperation he met Jim Irsay, who offered him a motivational role with the Colts organization. Josh dances without his artificial legs in a special project that good-humoredly makes the Colts players look weak.
Chris Stack talks about art’s importance to our cultural survival and personal sanity. He puts perspective on Kurt Vonnegut’s WWII experiences in Dresden.
But a $25,000 grant can only go so far. According to Herron's Juliet King, the only art therapy programming for veterans at this time in Indianapolis is offered by Herron’s internship program at the Roudebush VA Medical Center. The groundbreaking program will require funding to continue, says King, who points to this project as an example of the difference between therapeutic arts programming which can be made available at any art center and the specifically focused profession of art therapy, which requires licensure and legislative advocacy.