Engaging Veterans through Creative Expression
In 2016, as part of the Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative, the Oklahoma Arts Council and Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs began a collaboration to offer a pilot arts program to residents at the Norman Veterans Center. In conjunction with the program, a researcher from the University of Oklahoma's Knee Center for Strong Families was brought in to formally evaluate the program and work with the Oklahoma Arts Council to publish his findings. Titled "Engaging Veterans through Creative Expression," the resulting evaluation catalogue can assist individuals and organizations in providing programming for veterans and military members in their communities.
Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative
Launched in 2015, the Oklahoma Arts Council’s Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative is a strategic effort directed at meeting the needs of Oklahoma’s military community through the arts. With the military community representing nearly 10 percent of the state's residents, the Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative will allow the Oklahoma Arts Council to effectively extend the reach of its programs and services to impact a meaningful segment of the population while impacting a group that has specific needs meriting our focus and support. In addition to active duty servicemen and women, the initiative is aimed at serving veterans, guardsmen and reservists, military family members, and caregivers.
Goals of the Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative include:
- Strengthening connections between the arts and military communities
- Service to veterans as part of their reintegration and clinical rehabilitation
- Building the capacity of teaching artists and community organizations in communities throughout the state to provide arts-focused programs to those who have courageously served our country
- Leveraging the arts as part of the military experience in Oklahoma
Pilot Arts Programs
Norman (2016) and Lawton (2017)
In partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs and Norman’s Firehouse Art Center, the Oklahoma Arts Council piloted a series of hands-on arts learning courses at the Norman Veterans Center in 2016. Led by professional teaching artists, the program featured photography, creative writing, and visual art courses, each lasting between eight and twelve weeks. A special session in creative writing was offered for residents with dementia.
To evaluate the pilot program, an assessment of the impact of the courses on veterans center residents was conducted by a researcher from the University of Oklahoma's Knee Center for Strong Families at the Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work.
A second pilot arts program was launched in March 2017 at the Lawton/Ft. Sill Veterans Center. In addition to multi-week courses in creative writing and visual art, Native American flute music was also offered.
With the pilot arts programs serving as case studies, the Oklahoma Arts Council aims to provide a model for public agencies, nonprofit organizations, teaching artists, and community groups to use in serving the military population statewide through the arts.
The Oklahoma Arts and Military Summit
Presented by the Oklahoma Arts Council, in partnership with the Oklahoma Department of Veterans Affairs, the Oklahoma Arts and Military Summit took place as a pre-conference session of the 2016 Oklahoma Arts Conference on October 24, 2016. The event provided a forum for staff from arts and veterans organizations as well as teaching artists across the state to network and learn how to better serve members of Oklahoma’s military community through the arts.
Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative 2015 Community Survey Report
As part of the first phase of the Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative, the Oklahoma Arts Council distributed the Oklahoma Arts and the Military Initiative 2015 Community Survey in order to collect data from across the state to assess the presence of arts programs serving members of the military community. The survey garnered 400 responses from individuals representing 86 cities and 51 counties across Oklahoma. Survey participants expressed interest in having arts-based programs available that directly serve military personnel and their families. Respondents cited combat stress and recovery, family support, community support, engagement, physical rehabilitation, and economic empowerment as needs with the potential to be met through arts programs.
For more information, contact our Arts Learning in Communities Director.