31 December 2008

Contribute in Thought or Deed to the Vet Art Project

I know that while the needs of the world grow, our personal resources diminish. I am, however, asking you to consider making a contribution to the Vet Art Project by participating or making a donation in-kind or monetary contribution (tax deductible through the Vet Art Project's fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas).

You may already be familiar with the Vet Art Project's mission statement:
The Vet Art Project creates opportunities for veterans to work in collaboration with artists to create new art about war for public performance and viewing. The goals of the Vet Art Project are to:
Support our veterans
Create stronger voices among our veterans
Provide new opportunities for artists and
Offer a venue to hear the voices of our veterans and artists and
Foster discussions about how war affects us all

The seed for this idea was planted in late 2007 when I heard Ed Tick, author of War and the Soul, on the radio. He gave an impassioned plea to support our veterans, and for community members to witness their truth, and I realized that art and artists could help build a bridge to reconnect us all. I never dreamed that this seed would blossom into the beautiful reality that is the Vet Art Project--in residence in the Studio Theater of the Chicago Cultural Center in February 2009--culminating in a free public performance of new art about war on Monday, February 23, 7:30 p.m. While the month of the Vet Art Project lies before us, the accomplishments are already clear:
  • More than a dozen outreach programs have educated the community about the needs of veterans and their families, and provided contributions individuals can make to change lives.
  • More than two dozen veterans and family members of veterans and more than 100 artists, creative arts therapists, psychologists, and others have participated in the Vet Art Project to date.
  • A Veterans Day performance honoring the journey of a soldier created from veterans' writing submitted to the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, was created with the assistance of American Theater Company affiliated artists and ensemble members.
  • Many organizations have made in-kind donations and grants to support our veterans voices including Chicago Dramatists, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Stage Left Theatre, American Theater Company, the Chicago Book Festival (Chicago Public Libraries), the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, the Puffin Foundation, and most recently the Illinois Humanities Council.
Collaborative partnerships between veterans and artists are already underway for the February 23rd event, yet much work still lies ahead. As you may already know this is the first step in what I hope will become a national movement to activate our artists to help veterans tell stories of war so we will all bear witness to the truth. 

Complete details on how to make a tax-deductible contribution to the Vet Art Project through its fiscal sponsor Fractured Atlas are available at www.vetartproject.com/sponsor.html. Please visit www.vetartproject.com to learn more and get involved.

War affects us all. We need to know the truth about war. Veterans carry this truth. We need to support them, honor their service, and listen to their truth. The Vet Art Project is a single step in this direction. Honor this path by walking with us.

14 December 2008

Veterans lead the way at latest Vet Art Project Outreach Program

The DuPage Writers Group hosted the most recent outreach program for the Vet Art Project at the Carol Stream Public Library. A dozen of us gathered to share stories about war and learn about the plans for the Vet Art Project at the Chicago Cultural Center in February 2009. And while I came with a lot of prepared material, we were treated to a great learning experience with the help of J.D. Kammes (Iraq War and Kosovo War veteran), a member of the NIU Veterans Group, and Gerald L. Lundby (WWII veteran). J.D. talked about how sharing his war experiences with his family helped his uncle share some of his experiences during the Vietnam War for the first time. Ilona Meagher, author of Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America's Returning Troops (www.igpub.com) and creator of the PTSDCombat.com Web site also attended and provided these photos.
Thanks to Beth Orchard of the DuPage Writers Group who organized this event. Thanks, too, to the other writers of the group who are helping to record the stories of veterans that will be published early in 2009. More details to come soon.

29 November 2008

Illinois Humanities Council Awards Grant

The Vet Art Project was awarded a mini-grant from the Illinois Humanities Council for the February 2009 program planned for the Chicago Cultural Center Studio Theater. This project will connect veterans and their family members with artists from all disciplines to collaboratively transform stories of war and its affect on us all into art for public performance and viewing. The project will culminate at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 23, 2009 when community members are invited to bare witness to these stories and this art. More details at www.vetartproject.com including how to reserve tickets to this performance, which is free, but advance reservations are required.

Official announcement here: www.prairie.org/news/illinois-humanities-council-awards-mini-grants-seven-local-nonprofits.

Veterans Day Program Connects Audience to the Experience of Soldiers

The staged reading of veterans writing, performed by actors affiliated with American Theater Company, and assisted by Jessa Carlstrom and Heather Meyers, was a great success. It was both entertaining and informative. I think, too, that the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum and the Vet Art Project gained some new supporters and fans. We are talking about making this collaboration an annual event. 

10 November 2008

In Their Own Words: Veterans Day Program plans are set!

I hope you'll come out and show your support for our veterans and current arms services personnel, not by shopping, but by truly honoring their service to our country. We, the collective of artists affiliated with the Vet Art Project and American Theater Company, have come together to honor our troops. Using original writing submitted over the years to the National Vietnam Veterans Museum, we have recreated the journey of a soldier. This will be a staged reading performance in the lobby of the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum. I hope you'll join us.
Tuesday, November 11th, 6 p.m.
National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum
1801 S. Indiana Avenue

24 October 2008

Veterans Day Program at the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum

With the help of the affiliated artists of American Theater Company in Chicago, I set out to go through a file cabinet filled with writing by veterans, submitted over the years to the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum (NVVAM). What we found was writing reflecting the transformation and journey of a soldier. Poetry, prose, even a coloring book explaining with words and pictures of the Vietnam War were among our finds. After several selection meetings we created a one-hour program that will be presented on Veterans Day to honor our veterans. The performance will be held at the NVVAM. This is an outreach program of the Vet Art Project that we hope to be able to share with others. (Check back here for more information if you cannot be in Chicago at the NVVAM on Tuesday, November 11th at 6 p.m.) And if you can, please share this special event with a group of very talented actors and directors.
Here are the details:
In Their Own Words: A Collection of Veterans' Writing
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
6 p.m.
National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum
1801 S. Indiana Avenue
Chicago, IL
Admission to the museum: free for members, $10 general public, $7 students
Admission to this after-hours performance only: by donation

18 September 2008

Many New Partners, Many New Programs

The Vet Art Project continues to expand with more people becoming involved at all levels. And you can, too. Please view the list of upcoming events to see how you can make a difference in your own life and the life of a veteran.

21 August 2008

An Interview with Lisa Rosenthal, principal artist, Vet Art Project

What inspired this project?

I was driving home from a writing group I facilitate in September 2007 and I heard a radio program featuring Ed Tick, a psychotherapist, and John Zemler, a theologian and Army veteran with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) who is challenged by chronic pain, talking about Tick’s book War and the Soul. They were talking about the causes and consequences of PTSD and how healing can happen through storytelling. Veterans need to share their stories beyond the therapeutic or veterans-only groups to connect to the community to heal. And community members need to hear these stories to understand their role in healing the soul wound many veterans suffer because of their combat experience, and realize their responsibility to help tend these wounds and thereby heal our communities and ourselves. I remember waiting at a traffic light on Lower Wacker when I realized that artists can help build this bridge to connect veterans to the community. We live in an entertainment-based culture and people need to emotionally invest in the journey being told to listen and connect to a story. I envisioned a project where veterans work with artists to thereby realize the artists within themselves and then collaboratively construct these bridges to the community and build the world we want. We need to talk of war to think of peace and it is our veterans who are the keepers of this truth. We need to give them opportunities to share their wisdom. So this is a long way of saying the answer hit me in moment, and I realized the next step on my own spiritual journey.

How will you find artists to participate?

I am so proud of the artistic community here in Chicago. Every time I mentioned this project to anyone, they respond, “How can I help?” Or “I’ve wanted to do something but didn’t know how to plug in.” I have built relationships with a number of theaters that are interested in supporting this project including Chicago Dramatists, American Theater Company, 16th Street Theater (Berwyn), Stage Left Theatre, and Rivendell Theatre Ensemble. Also, the Department of Cultural Affairs Theater Department has accepted this project for the Incubator Series so the Vet Art Project will be in residence in the Studio Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center for the month of February 2009. Rivendell recently donated a rehearsal space room at the University of Chicago where I organized my first Vet Art Project Artist Recruitment Workshop.

Addressing the how-to mechanics of this question, I have extensive e-mail lists of artists and will be assisted in dispersing this information with the assistance of friends, Chicago Dramatists, and assorted media sources who pick up the call (such as the Chicago Reader who gave this first artist recruitment workshop high visibility by posting it on the front page of a recent theater section). I’ll also post upcoming recruitment event listings on Craig’s List and place ads in arts publications such as PerformInk to help spread the word. And of course interviews by members of the media will go a long way to help spread the word.

How will you find veterans to participate?

I’m already building a network through the contacts I’ve made among veterans who currently attend writing groups I facilitate, referrals to their friends, and through some of the organizations I’ve been working with such as Soldier’s Heart and the Theosophical Society. I’m also reaching out to veterans centers and creative arts therapists to engage in the project and help me spread the word.

You mention the Theosophical Society. Does your project have a particular philosophical orientation?

My goal is to share stories of war. I think you create divisions when you add politics into the equation. We are human beings struggling to understand why we go to war, the damage war causes, and how we can stop this cycle. While I want to empower people to share their voices, and realize that politics may enter the arena in this way, as long as there is respect for the common ground we all share, we can work together peacefully to create new art about war that will connect us all and teach us how to move forward in peace together.

Can community members participate?

Absolutely! I’ll be doing outreach programs as part of the Chicago Book Festival at area libraries. (See the upcoming events tab for information on these programs.)

What about students?

Involving students is one of my long-term goals but I believe this can be achieved in this first year. I want to include a mentorship component to this project; that is, having younger-career artists (in college) partner with older-career artists to learn with them and in collaboration with veteran participants. Upcoming events at area colleges will be posted soon.

Any other group I haven’t mentioned?

Yes. Those in the healing arts can participate. Psychologists, acupuncturists, massage therapists, and others who work in the healing arts are welcome to be a part of this. My goal is to provide physical and emotional support throughout the program for all participants. I’m also looking for licensed caterers to donate food for participants.

Where can someone find out more information about your project?

Keep checking VetArtProject.com for updates. This will also lead you to the blog for the project. People may also e-mail me at lisa@lisarosenthal.com.

How will you measure this project’s success?

If one veteran finds a new way to express himself, then it will be a success. If one veteran develops a long-term artistic relation with other artists, then it will be a success. If one audience member realizes the debt we owe our veterans, then it will be a success. If one inactive person becomes an active supporter of veterans, and responsive to their needs, then it will be a success.

This is a very ambitious project. Do you think you can pull it off?

I need to. This work must be done.

What will you do after February 2009?

My goal is to create a proto-type project here in Chicago that can then be implemented in other communities. My goal is to build this project in communities across our great nation and beyond that, across all the great nations of our world.

I haven’t figured out whether an online how-to guide or a book guide will work best to foster the growth of this project. While I am concerned about the environmental impact of printing paper books, I want to make this project accessible to everyone—whether online or not.

I’m also working on creating a documentary of this project to create a DVD to help educate and inspire other artists to introduce this project in other communities.

I’ve worked as a playwright, book author, editor, and writing coach for more than a dozen years and I’ve traveled quite a bit with my work. I have contacts across the country and world and look forward to building opportunities to motivate these people to share in my vision.

I would love to help make this happen and am committed to traveling to other communities to foster this project’s adoption.

I’m also writing grants to support this project.

How are you supporting this project?

I’ve received a seed grant from the Puffin Foundation Ltd. This project is partially supported by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs’ Theater Department. Other than these supporters, right now myself and my husband Ted Hogarth, a fellow artist, are supporting this project. I continue to apply for grants. I’m also exploring ways to accept donations directly to the project through a fiscal sponsor. The need is great—in the coming years the need will grow even greater. This is important work that I must do. I have faith that everything else will come together.

04 August 2008

Vet Art Project Events

An Introduction to the Vet Art Project for Artists and Interested Chicago-Area Residents

Saturday, August 9, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

University of Chicago

Bartlett Arts Rehearsal Space

5640 S. University Avenue

Hyde Park

The Vet Art Project is a month-long project in residence at the Studio Theater at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of their Incubator Series. This event on August 9th is an orientation to explain how you can get involved. There are different phases to this project and there is a place for both artists and concerned citizens to participate. The Vet Art Project Incubator at the Chicago Cultural Center will include community-building exercises among participants, be a writing workshop to help veterans share their voices, create new art from the stories of veterans—a collaborative effort between veterans and participating artists, use various media to tell these stories (drama, dance, song, film, visual art, and more), share this new art with the community in a public performance. This project is partially supported by the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs’ Theater Department.

Soldier’s Heart: An Introduction to War and the Soul

Thursday, October 9, 6:30 p.m.

Roosevelt Chicago Public Library

1101 W. Taylor Street, Chicago 60607

(312) 746-5656

Thursday, October 16, 7 p.m.

Bucktown-Wicker Park Chicago Public Library

1701 N. Milwaukee Avenue, Chicago 60647

(312) 744-6022

Thursday, October 30, 7 p.m.

Sulzer Regional Branch Chicago Public Library

4455 N. Lincoln Avenue, Chicago IL 60625

(312) 744-7616

Wednesday, November 12, 7 p.m.

Mt. Greenwood Chicago Public Library

11010 S. Kedzie Avenue, Chicago 60655

(312) 747-2805

Mini-workshop for veterans and community members demonstrating how war affects us, the soul wound from combat, ways to assist veterans, ourselves. Ed Tick’s War and the Soul and Chicago-area veterans writing groups and the Vet Art Project will be discussed.

26 July 2008

Save the Date: Saturday, August 9th

I'm doing a pre-workshop workshop for Chicago-area artists and other interested parties who'd like to learn more about the Vet Art Project. We'll be at a space at the University of Chicago. A big shout-out of thanks goes to the good folks of Rivendell Theatre Ensemble (www.rivendelltheatre.net) who helped us arrange this. More details to come via e-mail. Otherwise e-mail me and I'll pass the details along. (BTW: Check out Rivendell's Fresh Produce 2008: A Celebration of New Works by Women on Wed., July 30 and Friday, August 8.)

24 July 2008

Experiential Exercises Are Highlight of Soldier's Heart Intensive

The Soldier's Heart Intensive Training Retreat challenged me in many ways. Experiential exercises gave me just a taste of the split-second decisions made in a combat zone and the emotional roller coaster of a warrior on the battlefield. These exercises helped build bridges between veterans and the civilian participants (psychologists, family members, artists) so that we could connect to each other as equals and comrades in arms, except here we did not take up hostile positions. Instead we held each other, supported each other, were present for each other and each other's needs. This and more was a model that I'll incorporate in the Vet Art Project.

18 June 2008

Too Soon to Say & Off to Another Training Today

Viet Nam was amazing--her people, a magnificently beautiful country. They move through the world so differently than Westerners. I believe there is much for us to learn from their example.
Sorry not to post while in Viet Nam. Right now it all seems too personal to share.
Off to the Soldiers Heart Intensive Education & Training. I'm glad that I experienced Viet Nam first-hand before this workshop. This is a big step forward in my journey to help veterans tell their stories of war and share their warrior wisdom with us all. (Details under the Events tab at soldiersheart.net.)
In peace,

30 May 2008

Embarking on the Journey of a Lifetime

I'm traveling to Viet Nam. I'll fill my senses with the sites and sounds of another culture intimately tied to my own country's history and her people. My goal is to learn and grow and build a stronger foundation of compassion to help veterans from all wars upon my return. My next post will be from the other side of the world!

26 May 2008

Honoring Our Veterans with Our Support

On this Memorial Day I'd like to honor my teachers, the warriors who are helping me understand the war experience, sharing their stories of commitment, personal sacrifice, and forgiveness.

And to all the good people who help veterans on their journey of recovery, I owe you a debt of gratitude, too. I hope that readers will join with me to show this gratitude in kind and support. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to Soldier's Heart (soldiersheart.net) to help veterans heal and support the good work of those who are shepharding this journey.

16 May 2008

Incubating a Good Idea

The Vet Art Project will be a part of the Incubator Series at the Chicago Cultural Center in February 2009. That means we'll have the whole month to build a supportive community, help veterans and their loved ones share their stories both orally and in writing in a small-group setting, and then area artists will work with the veterans to transform these stories into stagecraft, film, dance, music, and more. The project will culminate in a free public performance.

A load of thanks to Claire and Nate in the Department of Cultural Affairs!

More updates soon--the pilot project has begun!

24 April 2008

This Summer I'm Attending the Soldier's Heart Education & Training Intensive & You Can, Too

In June I'll attend another training on transforming traumatized soldiers and veterans into redefined and healthy spiritual warriors. Led by Ed Tick and Kate Dahlstedt, the curriculum and experience will cover philosophies and methodologies found in Ed's book, War and the Soul. I'll learn how to integrate these healing strategies into my relationships and practices. This training is open to veterans, family members and all who are committed to helping transform and reorder the deep wounds of war into becoming catalysts of peace, strength, honor and service. More information from Soldier's Heart at info@soldiersheart.net.

This is an experiential retreat that, I know, will challenge me in many ways. There is so much need; more is coming. I am ready to serve my country by serving her veterans.

28 March 2008

Reconfiguring the Journey

It's been a month since I participated in Healing the War Torn Soul Workshop with Ed Tick and Kate Dahlstedt in Massachusetts. It was a sad reality that so many wars were represented among participating veterans. I am proud to be a part of the healing process for the veterans who attended this workshop.

It was an amazing experience in many ways.

  • I learned that by creating a safe and supportive community, it's possible to help bring our warriors—our veterans—home and reintegrate them into the community.
  • It takes a large investment of time and commitment and this workshop is just the beginning of their journey home.

But the workshop also taught me some important lessons affecting the conception of my original idea to pair veterans with artists to tell their stories to the community. While I want to communicate these stories to the community at large and I want to create new opportunities for artists, I now know that I need to invest more time working with veterans first and foremost before bringing others into the equation. Therefore I've reconfigured or reconceived my original project. I will:

  • Attend an upcoming workshop to learn the rituals used in Tick's workshop so that I can incorporate these into my programs
  • Recruit veterans to participate in groups around Chicago that incorporate these rituals to establish a safe environment for veterans and only then will these groups transition to veterans sharing their stories orally or in writing, or simply be present for other veterans who are ready to share their stories
  • Bring other artists into the process later, after a foundation of support is established whereby these new artists will help veterans tell their stories in a way that the veterans feel comfortable. Each team of artists become true partners with each veteran keeping him or her fully integrated in the process to the extent that s/he desires
  • Recruit specific artists for this purpose after providing interested artists with background and training and
  • Shape the creative team of artists to work with each veteran
  • Remain connected to each team as they work forward in their storytelling
  • Provide connections to venues where this art can be shared with the larger community
There's a lot of work to do. There is a lot of need already. More is on the way.

27 March 2008

The Project as Originally Conceived

The Vet Art Project is my response to people not talking about war, not feeling the reality of war, and not paying any personal price (except for those who have lost loved ones or who have loved ones who return again and again for extended tours of service in Iraq or Afghanistan) so that war continues unabated. Participating in peace demonstrations, that are NOT AGAINST SOLDIERS, BUT AGAINST AN UNJUST WAR, was no longer enough. And as an artist, I felt that I could contribute more to this equation.

The answer came to me via a late night radio program aired on Chicago Public Radio, an interview that originated out of Wisconsin, with Ed Tick and John Zemler. Tick was promoting his book War and the Soul: Healing the Nation's Veterans from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (Quest Books, 2005) and getting the word out about workshops he was conducting across the country the veterans and members of the community.

To jump ahead in my process, here's what Tick states in his book followed by my original goals:

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) results from military/combat duty and the condition can only be managed with therapy and sharing one’s stories with others within the family and with the larger community. At its most effective storytelling “must go beyond the therapeutic setting and an exclusively veteran audience to take place before members of the general populace” and “survivors need to gather and share in [a] living community” to heal.

The Vet Art Project pairs veterans who have experienced PTSD with artists to:

  • Build another source of support and sharing to help in the healing process, and to
  • Create storytelling through stage plays, dance choreography, and music composition, to convey the stories and emotions of veterans lives, and to
  • Perform these stories in staged readings of plays and/or dance recitals and/or musical compositions and/or film to share these stories with the larger community, and to thereby
  • Foster healing and provide outreach to veterans in need and to
  • Educate the community about the realities of war and to
  • Provide new connections between veterans and the audience who witness their stories and to
  • Offer additional creative opportunities to artists

This is my idea of how, as an artist, I could contribute to this healing process and educate the community while providing new artistic outlets for fellow artists.

28 February 2008

Going back to the beginning

I’m off to the Healing the War Torn Soul with Ed Tick in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He is the author of War and the Soul that inspired the Vet Art Project. Quest Books and the Theosophical Society are helping me attend this workshop. I’m open; I’m nervous; I’m ready to start building our house.