Innovating Through Artistry

The Arts and Vets: Designing a Program That Serves

In Author: John Cimino, Creativity and Innovation, ENTREPRENEUR THE ARTS, Health & Wellness on September 16, 2009 at 4:11 am

I’d like to tap the wisdom and creative juices of my fellow bloggers and readers in a real-time challenge.  I’m assembling a group of experienced artists from various disciplines here in the Hudson Valley of New York to participate in an on-going action seminar on the vital intersection of the arts and healthcare.  A combination of think tank and field research, the seminar’s goal is to cultivate, catalyze and use the knowledge and experience of artists to develop new approaches to programming in the arts and healthcare field, particularly in services to veterans.

The arts have always been a terrific spark for reflection and new thinking.  Also, of course, for pleasure, inspiration and refreshment.  Every one of these dividends would be a welcome experience for our young men and women returning from the conflicts overseas.   However, as we know, their needs run a good deal deeper.  Their lives have been profoundly shaken and often the last thing on their minds is taking care of themselves.  They have lived in service to others, to us and to their fellow soldiers.  Seeing a meaningful and rewarding road forward in their lives now that they are home will require a wisdom and mindset which too often does not come easily. 

So what can we do, as artists and entrepreneurs, to be of service to them?  What tools are at our disposal to be shared with our returning veterans?  Our veterans are rich in promise, talent and possibility and have probably demonstrated more courage and discipline than most of us will ever imagine.  Perhaps, some of you are veterans and can speak from experience.  The arts embody a way of thinking and exploring that we know can be helpful in problem-solving.  The arts have  nurtured, even healed our broken spirits.  What is the innovative, restorative relationship between the arts and veterans that can rightly serve them?  How is the invitation best extended?  How is the program idea marketed?  How does it find its resonance among those who may need it most?

Our action seminar will be on-going through the next several months.  Veterans and veterans services providers will also be joining in the dialogue.  Our hope is to jump-start new program ideas as early as this winter and spring.   I often say to groups of artists and entrepreneurs that the world needs your gifts.   That is certainly true in this instance.   So be encouraged and send on your thoughts.    Here’s to those who serve.


  1. Hi John – do you have suggestions on how to keep in touch with the progress of your group? Two years ago I started a project called Photographers for Freedom ( where we photographed families of the deployed and provided albums to the family and serviceman. We were able to do 36 families with the help of 2 other photographers. My hope was always to get a veteran involved in the project and to ramp up the involvement of others. We lost focus and need to get this going again. I would certainly be able to describe our program, success and pitfalls to anyone interested. Thanks.
    Doug Eng

  2. Hi Doug — thanks so much for your response. The seminar group I mentioned should be assembled and running by mid-October and I will update this posting periodically with the most constructive ideas as the emerge. Your Photographers for Freedom project sounds wonderful and I will definitely bring it to the attention of the seminar group at our first meeting. Whatever we can learn from you will be deeply appreciated. Please, let’s stay in touch. I will contact you through your web site. Warm regards, John

  3. Dear John,
    What a great idea!! I am a musician and have found that a WWII Remembrance Concert that we do (w/ works by camp composers, setting of poetry by children, a work that was based on the Diary of Anne Frank) is among the most meaningful of any I’ve ever done in my career. Music is a powerful tool when it comes to memories, and communicating at a deep level.

    I think you’re onto something here!

    Best of Luck to you,
    Mary Kay Ferguson

  4. ps- check out the reunion in Hudson Falls NY this Sept …Bergen Belson survivors and their American Liberators. Hudson Falls High School

  5. Mary Kay, thanks so much for your notes. I’m with you 100% on the power of music to spark remembrance and to communicate deeply. I can easily understand the special potency it has for World War II veterans. My father was one and certain music stirred his soul as nothing else could. So glad you bring this life-giving energy into the world. I’ll be sure to check into the reunion in Hudson Falls. With my thanks, John

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