Programs Overview

CreatiVets currently offers two programs - a songwriting program that pairs veterans with accomplished songwriters in Nashville to write a song, and a three week art program with The School of the Art Institute in Chicago where veterans learn ceramics, painting and photography. Our programs are structured to reach veterans on an individual basis to ensure they are getting a customized, one-on-one experience to best help them heal.

For most veterans, talking about their trauma can be a unique challenge.  Military service teaches the  "carry your own pack" mindset, where our servicemen and women learn they must be strong enough to carry their own burdens, whether physical, mental or emotional, in order to survive the grueling nature of combat.  This mindset prepares them well for their duties, but for veterans that suffer from PTS, it can hinder them in getting the help they need because they don't want to burden anyone with their story.  It can also be painful for the veterans to re-live their experiences and loss each time they tell their story.  Yet in the CreatiVets program, the veterans' focus is on creating a tangible work that embodies their experience, rather than directly talking about their story.  Each of our programs is designed to maximize the opportunity for the veteran to use art to first address the events that caused the trauma, and then show how art can serve as a coping mechanisms the veteran can utilize without "handing off the pack."   By creating something beautiful out of something tragic, the veteran often takes the first step towards healing, and also learns that in sharing the song or piece of art with others who are affected by the work, the veteran is not alone in the struggle to cope.  

I strongly believe that every veteran should tell their story for the benefit of themselves and their loved ones. Personally, it was very hard for me to talk about my Iraq War experience, and I avoided questions about it. I didn’t want to revisit the sad feelings or horrific memories. It wasn’t until after I began to tell my story to people that I felt a sense of relief from some of the grief I held inside.
— Veteran Participant, Art Program

Songwriting Program

The CreatiVets songwriting program pairs veterans with accomplished songwriters and music artists to allow them the opportunity to creatively express their story through a song.  The veteran travels to Nashville, Tennessee, where he or she is met by a veteran that has gone through the program and can help make the veteran comfortable with the experience, and then participates in a songwriting session to write a song that is recorded and made available for the veteran to share with family and friends.  

Through the songwriting sessions, veterans are provided with an opportunity to tell their stories in a different way, and they take something from the program that they can keep forever. The songs are written to capture the veteran's personal story so that it is theirvoice talking about their experiences, but in a way that captures certain universal experiences that others can understand and often relate to. Following the experience, the veterans not only have their own song to listen to or play whenever they want, but they also have a new strategy for helping themselves cope with anxiety and depression. Many participating veterans have taken it upon themselves to learn how to play the guitar after they return from the songwriting program, and they continue to write songs on their own, which furthers the healing process.

Intro to Art for Veterans

CreatiVets has partnered with The School of the Art Institute in Chicago and Virginia Commonwealth University to provide a three week, fully-accredited art program for disabled veterans at no cost to themselves.  Veterans have full access to studios and equipment at the school, and the program gives them an opportunity to create and discuss art with some of the best art instructors in the country.  Through the process, veterans learn the benefits of using art as a form of stress and anxiety relief, as well as a way to tell their stories.  

At the end of the three week program, the participating veterans have the opportunity to share the pieces they have created at a gallery showcasing their works. Through this showcase, the veterans are able to help raise public awareness about the challenges facing veterans and how art can assist in addressing the psychological and emotional struggles that arise from combat-related trauma.

 Veterans learning about conceptual-based art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Veterans learning about conceptual-based art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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