“When life gets too crazy, I just go and do my crafts,” said Marine Corps Veteran Catherine D’Angelo. “Nothing else matters. It really helps me to focus and calm myself.” D’Angelo recently received a gold medal in the National Veterans Creative Arts competition that secured her participation in this year’s festival.

The festival was held April 24 in St. Petersburg Florida. D’Angelo has participated in the local and National Veterans Creative Arts competition and festival for the past 15 years.

The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival showcases the artistic achievements of Veterans from across the country in five artistic divisions. Each festival features an art exhibit and writing exhibition of the first-place entries from the national competition.

Veterans who have achieved gold medal-winning status in a variety of categories from the performing arts divisions of music, drama and dance present a show performance. The festival week offered visual arts and performance workshops, as well as writing seminars.

The workshops educate participants in a variety of artistic areas by utilizing the talents of local community artists.

“I’ve learned so many new skills.”

Veterans prepare for each year’s festival at their local VA facility and work with staff to submit their artwork for consideration.

“I get a lot out of participating in the creative arts program at the Orlando VA,” said D’Angelo. “I’ve learned so many new skills like paint by number, staining glass, wood burning, and creating no-sew quilts like the one that won a gold medal this year.”

The gold medal winning no-sew quilt featured at this year’s festival was created and inspired by her mother.

“My mother used to have a beautiful garden and bird houses when I was growing up,” said D’Angelo. “This quilt takes me back to simpler times.”

Festival great for rehabilitation goals

For Army Veteran Lionel Marcoux, the annual festival provides him the opportunity to share his love of music.

“I’ve been participating in the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival since 2002,” said Marcoux. “I look forward to the camaraderie, the sense of belonging and new friendships made each year.”

Marcoux performed an original composition entitled, “We Shall All Stand Tall.” The music was written by his friend specifically for the festival.

“I sang this song in this year’s festival because I really want people to hear the words of the song and its meaning,” said Marcoux. “It’s such a beautiful piece.”

Help shine a light on creative arts programming

Creative Arts Therapist Jenny Danieli explains that the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition and Festival is a great way to incorporate rehabilitation goals for Veterans.

“I’ve really seen tremendous growth in both Catherina and Lionel over the years,” said Danieli. “They have both made great progress, not only with their health-related goals, but in their personal lives as well. I am really proud of them and think that they help us to shine a light on the Creative Arts programing that we offer.”

To learn more about this year’s National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, visit: National Veterans Creative Arts Festival – Veterans Health Administration.

By Melanie L. Thomas is a public affairs officer at the North Florida/South Georgia VA

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Published on May. 7, 2022

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