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.