The Vet Art Project provides opportunities for veterans and their families to work in collaboration with artists to create art about war and service, and to foster discussion about how war and service affect us all.
“Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation. If veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding, and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war. And they can teach us how to make peace with ourselves, and each other, so we never have to use violence to resolve conflicts again.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Initial Inspiration for the Project
I was driving home from a writing group I facilitate in Chicago in September 2007 and I heard a radio program featuring Ed Tick, a psychotherapist, who has worked with veterans since the mid-1980s and author of War and the Soul: Healing Our Nation’s Veterans from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and John Zemler, a Desert Storm veteran who carries physical and emotional wounds from his combat experience. They were talking about the causes and consequences of PTSD and how healing can happen through storytelling.
Veterans need to share their stories beyond the therapeutic setting or veterans-only groups to connect to the community to heal. And community members need to hear these stories to understand their role in healing the soul wound many veterans suffer because of their combat experience, and realize their responsibility to help tend these wounds and thereby heal our communities and ourselves.
I remember waiting at a traffic light on Lower Wacker Drive when I realized that artists can build this bridge to connect veterans to the community. Some veterans have found a way to express their journey through art. Some veterans remain silent because they have not developed their artistic ability or aren’t empowered to speak out, or they are silenced because of shame or anger or estrangement. Artists are families-of-choice that can provide guidance to stronger self-expression for our veterans.
The Red Bridge in central Hanoi, Vietnam, Dec 2005