“Art therapy is no different from working out at the gym. It is an awesome outlet to resolve your issues,” according to U.S. Army Airborne Infantry Veteran Anthony Jones.
Coming from an artistic family, he felt it natural to utilize the art therapy program after he enrolled in health care at the Martinsburg VAMC. “In 2015 I decided I needed to change, I dedicated myself to the health care and programs offered at the VA.” Jones said.
Nationwide, VA medical facilities use the creative arts as one form of rehabilitative treatment to help Veterans recover from and cope with physical and emotional disabilities.
Across the country each year, Veterans enrolled at VA health care facilities compete in a local creative arts competition. The competition includes 51 categories in the visual arts division this year that range from oil painting to leatherwork to paint-by-number kits.
In addition, there are 100 categories in the performing arts pertaining to all aspects of music, dance, drama and creative writing. Through a national judging process, first, second and third place entries in each category are determined.
Jones participated in the Martinsburg VAMC Creative Arts Festival in 2016 and 2017, receiving first place both years in Fine Arts and Mixed Media. The festival provided him the opportunity to showcase his artwork and prepared him for a larger audience.
Jones at work in his studio
Recently Jones was given the opportunity to create a piece of artwork on his largest canvas to date by partnering with another local artist to showcase their art and vision on a tractor-trailer. “I’m very excited about it being out there.” Jones said.
He volunteers his time at the medical center Hobby Shop every other Friday providing motivation and encouragement to other Veterans. “I’m offering hope and inspiration that if you want something, it’s there.” He said. “The VA helped me get it together.”
Jones is currently enrolled at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College as a full-time student working toward a major in liberal arts and has opened his own studio.
The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival is the celebration and grand finale stage and art show, which are the culmination of talent competitions in art, creative writing, dance, drama and music for Veterans treated in the VA national health care system.
The festival this year is hosted by the VA Western New York Healthcare System, Buffalo, New York and is presented by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the American Legion Auxiliary.
Approximately 120 Veterans will exhibit their artwork or perform musical, dance, dramatic or original writing selections in a gala variety show. A professional orchestra will accompany the performance. All Veterans invited to participate are selected winners of year-long, national fine arts talent competitions in which thousands of Veterans enter, from VA medical facilities across the nation.
VA medical facilities incorporate creative arts into their recreation therapy programs to further rehabilitation for both inpatients and outpatients. This annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery made through that therapy, and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our nation’s Veterans after disease, disability or life crisis.
About the author: Sarah M. Tolstyka works at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center as the Public Affairs Officer