31 December 2009

News from Vet Art Project Seattle

Caroline Brown, Lead Artist, Vet Art Project Seattle

My name is Caroline Brown and I am currently the lead artist for Vet Art Project Seattle. December 6th marks our fifth workshop and I am in awe of how our process has unfolded so far.

I was inspired to pursue the Vet Art Project Seattle after learning of Lisa Rosenthal’s project in Chicago. I have an extensive background using the arts—particularly performance—as a tool to help individuals and communities express themselves as a means of healing and advocacy and have wanted to work with veterans for some time. I began researching programs that were set up to support veterans’ return to civilian life and ironically found the Vet Art Project Webpage the day after the February performance at the Chicago Cultural Center. I immediately contacted Lisa via e-mail to inquire about the idea of using the Chicago project as a model for a similar one in Seattle. Before I even left the coffee shop from where I was e-mailing, Lisa had left me a voice mail offering her full encouragement of my endeavor.

Lisa’s support has been instrumental in helping me get the Seattle project off the ground, particularly during the preliminary stages of planning and organizing. During our first phone conversation, Lisa answered all of my questions regarding how the Chicago project was shaped and immediately provided me with the project’s mission statement and logo. From there, she put me in touch with Soldier’s Heart Seattle, the veteran’s return and healing project based on the writings of Dr. Edward Tick. The director of Soldier’s Heart Seattle, Sally Jo Gilbert de Vargas, has since become one my strongest allies in promoting the project and helping me network within the veteran’s community.

As I began to research funding for the project, Lisa agreed to serve in an advisory role for a grant that I applied for and also provided me with a great bit of narrative for the application. We are lucky to have the wonderful Freehold Theatre serve as our project’s host and fiscal sponsor here in Seattle.

In addition to offering professional support and resources, Lisa also understands the personal challenges and triumphs that one can face in pursuing projects of this nature. She continues to be a wonderful sounding board and positive reinforcement for the process.

After seven months of networking, researching, grant writing and coordinating, the Vet Art Project Seattle held its first meeting between artists and vets in October. In just four short workshops, we created a safe space of trust and openness where veterans and artists alike are able to share, create, explore and learn.

I am extremely humbled by the risks that individuals are willing to take outside of their comfort zone and I am inspired by the work that is being created through the partnerships between artists and vets.

I emphasize the term learn because even though it is very clear that there is no political agenda for the project, conversations still inevitably arise around individuals’ different experiences, opinions and perspectives. The workshops provide us with a safe environment where extreme disparities can finally be shared, witnessed and embraced rather than ignored or disrespected.

I have great hopes for the Vet Art Project Seattle and where the creative process will lead us over the course of the next three months. Week after week, our community continues to grow as new participants join and dialogues continue to build. I am confidant that we will continue to embrace the diversity of human experience amongst our group and collectively build a creative context where it may be healed, celebrated and honored.

I think I can speak on behalf of our project here in Seattle when I say that we are very proud to be recognized as Chapter Two in the many Vet Art Projects that are being pursued nationwide.

To learn more about our upcoming performance in mid-March or to join our mailing list, please send an e-mail to Caroline.e.brown@gmail.com or visit our Web page at http://web.mac.com/c.e.b/iWeb/Site%202/Vet%20Art%20Project%20Seattle.html.

19 November 2009

Experiencing Veteran’s Voices: The Synergy of Community

By David Faigin, M.A., Vet Art Project Clinical Consultant

One of the most wonderful outcomes I’m seeing from the Vet Art Project are the ways in which community is building around the project in a synergistic way. This synergy is bringing veterans into the project, connecting veterans to artists, and connecting the whole project to other groups and organizations in the community. Synergy is what brought me to the project in the first place; offering me a way to continue to work with veterans and their families in the community, as well as blending my work in community psychology and my background in theatre and the arts.

The most rewarding thing about my involvement in the project so far by far is witnessing the positive impact it’s having on the veterans who participate. Strength, encouragement, connection, and community are blossoming out of the partnerships and artistic activities taking place. Veterans, their children and supporters, artists, therapists, veteran advocates, politicians and community members are offered a way to meet and interact that can only occur in this sort of grass-roots activity. Having worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs and hearing from veterans first hand, I am now well aware of what the various medical, therapeutic, and veteran service organization settings have to offer veterans and their families. The efforts being put into these settings and the help that they offer is critical, but I can say with great certainty now, the Vet Art Project is offering something unique, and just as critical.

My involvement so far in the Vet Art Project has allowed me to lead workshops and community conversations, share my input on growing the community, and to perform at the recent NIU event embodying one story of the veteran participants. The Vet Art Project’s partnership with the Remy Bumppo Theater Company allowed me to share my perspective on veterans issues as they relate to the acclaimed performance of Heroes that is currently running at the Greenhouse Theater. The company’s yearly salon involved a discussion of all the plays in Remy Bumppo’s ’09-’10 season and I was the panelist invited to discuss Heroes. The panel was a lively discussion and an opportunity for me to address the themes and ideas presented in Heroes as well as the Vet Art Project and the impact that experiencing veterans’ voices can have on our communities. I highly recommend the performance, which follows three WWI veterans as they navigate their friendships, and search for connection and meaning in their later years. It runs through November 29.

Here’s a link to Remy Bumppo and “Heroes”: www.remybumppo.org

Here’s a link where you can hear the whole panel discussion that took place on Sept. 14 about all three plays: www.chicagopublicradio.org/Content.aspx?audioID=37198

This weekend, Sunday Nov. 22, the Vet Art Project’s partnership with Remy Bumppo gets even more exciting, as they join us for a Warrior Poetry reading, featuring many veterans sharing their own words, after the Sunday matinee of Heroes. This is sure to be a powerful event as we see veterans and professional actors share the voices of many generations of warriors.

Personal stories have the power to transform identity, relationships, and the whole community. This project is offering an open platform for veterans’ stories to do just that. Transformation can bring new understanding, healing, and reintegration. I look forward to witnessing the ways the Vet Art Project will continue to connect veterans to themselves, their loved ones, and their communities.

Art is wide enough, big enough, and strong enough to hold any narrative, any pain. It has the power to safely hold the warrior and his/her experience simultaneously. It has the power to open up all of us to hear one another more deeply. I know. I am seeing it happen.

25 October 2009

Artistic Impressions

The Museum... was very difficult for me to be in. I felt a sense of awe and then a sense of not belonging. When I walked into the Museum and saw the dog tags hanging my heart sank and I immediately put up a wall. I chose to view it as if I was a foreigner looking at an important cultural artifact such as a pot or a doll. "That must've meant something to someone at sometime I thought." I found that I looked at the blank walls more than I did the art. The blank spaces, made up of concrete and shadows, put me at ease. "What's that about?"

When the rehearsal started I looked for any excuse to leave the room.
I ran to the car.
Went for a smoke.
Used the bathroom four times.
Passed blank spaces frequently.
Coming back from the bathroom, I wanted to place my hand on the cement wall. I could tell it would feel cold. I didn't. Scared someone would see me and be all, "Whatever." So I went back in the elevator. Pushed the warm plastic button: 3rd floor. Watched them rehearse the play. Went home and was numb. That evening when I was all alone I cried. The wall I put up fell. And what I saw were those same blank walls.

I called my dad and I told him to not say no, but to think about what I was going to say. He listened. I asked him if he wanted to go to this retreat for Vets that was happening in Denver this summer with this great lady playwright I met named Lisa. He said, "#$^%, no." I said, "Hold on a sec, I don't need the answer now. I just want you to think about it. Stay open. We'll talk about it again when I come up for Christmas." There was a pause. The cold cement. The silence. Then he said,"Alright Kid, I'll stay open."

I don't know if he will go. I don't know if he will leave the mountain he lives on for that length of time. I do know for right now until christmas, I can see some of him on that wall.

Written by Dana Lynn Formby, playwright of Armed with Peanut Butter, impressions after her Open Rehearsal at the National Veterans Art Museum, Chicago, preparing for the Vet Art Project Chicago's Veterans Day performance at DePaul University.

Note: The retreat to which she refers is a Soldier's Heart Retreat with Edward Tick, author of War and the Soul. Details on this and other retreats are available at soldiersheart.net

30 September 2009

Vet Art Project Phoenix Is Born!

Hello My Friends,
Vet Art Project Phoenix was born earlier tonight. Spearheaded by the multi-talented Tessa Windt, we are very excited to bring her into the family. She knows the value of storytelling and the importance of building strong bridges to unite communities. You can contact her at twindt@yahoo.com.

Rainbow Sightings, begun 2008 - ongoing
Online archive of rainbow photographs: www.rainbowsightings.com

25 September 2009

John Fisher returns to Chicago for another inspirational talk on War and the Soul

John Fisher, Senior Veteran's Liaison for Soldier's Heart was in Chicago to speak on War and the Soul. It was an inspirational evening indeed! Here just a small taste of this inspiring warrior:

What an honor and a pleasure to be with everyone in Chicago again. The warrior's journey home is often a long, but in the end a treasured trek through spiritual morality. The gruesome experiences are often denied or harbored, yet the acceptance of destiny begins the enlightenment process to the eventual initiation into warriorhood. Without the journey we suffer with the wound. It's the process of climbing up out of the wound that brings understanding with eventual healing, not just for the veteran, but for the entire society.

See what I mean?!
Then John and myself and Adam Navarro-Lowery and Bill Crist traveled to Racine, Wisconsin for the Soldier's Heart Retreat. Amazing journey filled with storytelling, ritual, healing, and community. More details on upcoming retreats here: www.soldiersheart.net

05 September 2009

Vet Art Project Events in Chicago Announced!

This list will be updated soon with more performance opportunities!
Please visit www.vetartproject.com for more information.
Or send us your e-mail address to lisa@lisarosenthal.com with Vet Art Project e-list in subject line or visit us on Facebook.



The Chicago-based Vet Art Project (www.vetartproject.com) is offering a variety of programs from creative arts workshops to community discussions and performances this Fall. Workshops are free (except for Newberry Library and Chicago Dramatists events) and open to veterans, active duty military personnel, family members of veterans and active duty personnel, practitioners who work with veterans, and artists. Performances and community discussions are open to all and are free of charge, too. Please see details below because programming is offered in multiple locations. The Vet Art Project is grateful for the support of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs Theater for their support.

The Vet Art Project creates opportunities for veterans to work in collaboration with artists from all disciplines to create new art about war for public performance and viewing. The program aims to support our veterans, create stronger voices among our veterans, provide new opportunities for artists, offer a venue to hear the voices of our veterans and artists, and foster discussions about how war affects us all. The Vet Art Project, recipient of the Illinois Humanities Council Towner Award for its unconventional and unique method in pursuit of ambitious goals. The Chicago branch of the Vet Art Project, created by Lisa Rosenthal, is co-led by Jessa Carlstrom. Please register in advance by calling 773-301-5366 or 708-715-5488 or visit us on the Vet Art Project Facebook page. Drop-ins are welcome.

Creative Arts Programming

Thursday, September 24, October 1, and October 8, 5:45-7:45 p.m.

Exploring Our Stories of War & Service

Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton St., Chicago, (312) 255-3700

This workshop, produced in conjunction with the Vet Art Project, encourages the exploration of a story in your own life, the life of a loved one, or of an historical or fictional character that can help us understand various perspectives on war and the affect it has on soldiers. Led by Lisa Rosenthal. There is a fee for this workshop. Visit www.newberry.org/programs/currentschedule for details.

Wednesday, October 14, 6-10 p.m.

Family Theater Night

Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Street, Garland Room (1st floor), Chicago

Welcoming all family members recently reunited post-tour of duty to learn improv techniques to recreate a happy family occasion and if you are a veteran without any immediate family living in the area, come and create a happy memory with participating artists or bring your urban family. Led by Salsation Theatre Company

Public Performances & Appearances (Open to the Public):

More performance programming will be announced shortly!

Saturday, October 24, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.

Open Rehearsal for New Art about War created for the forthcoming Vet Art Project Veteran’s Day performances

National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, 1801 S. Indiana Street, Chicago, (312) 326-0270, www.nvvam.org

These Vet Art Project performances honor Veterans Day, featuring dance, drama, poetry, and more. Witness the stories unfolding or view the art in the galleries of the museum that tell their own stories.

Saturday, October 31, 2:00 p.m.

Stephen’s Psalm, written by Lisa Rosenthal, directed by Julieanne Ehre, Chicago Dramatists Saturday Play Reading Series. Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave., (312) 633-0630, www.chicagodramatists.org

A father tries to reconnect to his estranged son before his son goes off to Iraq. The father travels to the source of his grief—the site where he lost his brother in the Vietnam War when he was just 15—to find the key to unlock his son’s heart. Created in the Vet Art Project. $5 suggested donation to support Chicago Dramatists.

Sunday, November 22, 2:30 p.m. Warrior Poetry & Talkback following Heros at Remy Bumppo Theater

Following the matinee performance and talkback for Heros, a comedy about three war veterans who meet in a retirement home and become fast friends, features award-winning Chicago actors Mike Nussbaum, David Darlow, and Roderick Peeples, please join us for Warrior Poetry, a reading of poetry written by Chicago-area veterans with a talkback to follow.

Community Discussions

Wednesday, September 16, 6:30-9:30 p.m.

War and the Soul Workshop

Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington Street, Garland Room (1st floor), Chicago

The presentation will explore how trauma affects veterans and how our communities can help. Q&A session to follow. Led by John Fisher, Senior Veteran Liaison, Soldier’s Heart, & Vietnam Veteran

Saturday, October 3, 2009, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

What Civilians Need to Understand About Homecoming

National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum, 1801 S. Indiana Street, Chicago, (312) 326-0270, www.nvvam.org

This mini-workshop, created with the Vet Art Project, is for civilians who want to understand the homecoming process—transiting from the combat zone to the home front. Led by Dr. John Mundt, Ph.D., Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Day Hospital, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.

Wednesday, October 7, 7:00-9:00 p.m. (and meeting the first Wednesday of every month)

Women Warriors Discussion Group

Various locations. E-mail Sabrina_waller@yahoo.com for updated information

This group will be a discussion opportunity for female veterans and female artists to get together and discuss common interests and concerns. We'll form the foundations of the group at the first meeting. Some art may grow out of this group but it's not required to participate nor is it required to be a veteran artist to participate.

Out of Town Events

Sunday, September 13, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday, October 10, 9-11 a.m.

With Performance on Sunday, November 8, 7 p.m. Sandburg Auditorium, Holmes Student Center, DeKalb, IL

Vet Art Project NIU

A day of workshops to create a collaborative community, rehearsals and public performance on November 8, 2009. In association with NIU Veteran’s Club, JD Kammes, President.

Sunday, November 8, 7 p.m.

Vet Art Project NIU: Stories of War and Service, Northern Illinois University, Holmes Student Center, Sandburg Hall, DeKalb, Illinois

This performance and viewing of art created in the inaugural Vet Art Project NIU is open to the public.

Saturday, November 21, 3-9 p.m. Family Theater Event, Music, and Potluck Discussion on Veterans Issues

Lakeside Legacy Arts Park, 401 Country Club Road, Crystal Lake, IL 60014, 815-455-8000, www.lakesidelegacy.org.

Family Theater Event at 3 p.m., using improvisational techniques to recreate happy family times. Music from 5:30-7 p.m., featuring David Sarkis and others. Potluck and Discussion begins at 7 p.m.

The Vet Art Project is produced in association with the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs’ Theater. The project is supported, in part, by the Puffin Foundation, the Illinois Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Illinois General Assembly, Chicago Dramatists, Stage Left Theatre, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, 16th Street Theater, and is fiscally sponsored by Fractured Atlas.

# # #

“Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation. If veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding, and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war. And they can teach us how to make peace with ourselves and each other, so we never have to use violence to resolve conflicts again.”

—Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh

DoD & VA Open to Vet Art Project Mission as it Aids Resiliency

The Vet Art Project was warmly received at the recent DoD Force Health Care Conference in NM. I'm working on making this interest become programming and growing opportunities f to hear the stories of our veterans and their family members!
Next up Soldier's Heart Retreat in Racine, WI with Edward Tick and then onto the DoD/VA OEF/OIF Conference in Las Vegas. Onward and upward!

13 August 2009

I'm Off to the Dept. of Defense Force Health Care Conference to Talk about the Vet Art Project!!!

I cannot believe that the date of the DoD Force Health Conference in Albuquerque, New Mexico is almost here! I'll be presenting a talk entitled "Healing with the Arts: The Vet Art Project as a Model to Support Veterans and Families and Reconnect Our Community Using Creative Arts Programming" and Pamela Woll--remember her from our Incubator program at the Chicago Cultural Center last February?--she'll be speaking on Resilience Training.
I am hopeful because the DoD and VA are interested in learning how the arts can be part of the healing and reconnection process for veterans. I want to share the joy and the power that is the Vet Art Project. And I want to thank you all for your contributions and commitments to help veterans voices be heard!
And Jessa is off in MN collecting veterans stories to the North! She will be back to lead the next workshop at the Chicago Cultural Center next Wednesday.
PEACE is possible THROUGH ART,

25 July 2009

Stand Down San Diego

I returned from Stand Down San Diego last Monday evening. These are the good people who started the Stand Down movement which assists homeless veterans, now with more than 200 events across the nation. A tent city using military tents, cots, and supplies is created by active-duty Marines. Homeless veterans and family members come into the campus early one morning. It's a safe environment where they are fed, housed, and cared for with dignity and courtesy for 2-1/2 days. They are given access to clothes, drug and alcohol treatment programs--that accept many participants during this very event--dental care, medical care, medicines, optometry, acupuncture, massage, podiatry care, spiritual counseling (if they choose), and entertainment each evening. I served as a tent leader and helped ensure that the 30+ men assigned to Lima tent were cared for and received the services they needed. I was paired with a great & wise warrior named Don. I wish I had a picture of him to share with you.

The amazing folks of Veterans Village San Diego (www.vvsd.net--YOU must check it out online!) help support this project with volunteers, supplies, transportation, and many veterans are accepted into their treatment program directly from the Stand Down event. Led by clinical director and goddess Marilyn Cornell, and assisted by the talented and lovely Jerry Stadtmiller, and the generous Kate Webb, and a host of friendly and brilliant people, this facility is a gift to the people of San Diego. I think it's a model of care for the whole nation, providing veterans with food, housing, counseling, job counseling, job training, yoga and creative arts workshops to help heal their minds, bodies, and spirits. At Stand Down I met many of their graduates--many now volunteering at Stand Down--and they are great people! They even have a Stand Down manual online here: http://www.vvsd.net/standdown.htm. If you don't have a Stand Down event currently in your community, start it, now! It's estimated that more than 1/3 of all the homeless in the U.S. are veterans. Having any homeless in the U.S. is appalling; having so many veterans among them is a disgrace. YOU can make a difference!

No matter how I try to describe this event, my words will not do it justice. Marilyn describes it as a cross between Woodstock and a family reunion. Stand Down is a time and place where we all come together as equals and everyone who participates is enriched, not just those who are assisted with a hand up (NOT a hand out), but those who volunteer. It is a life-changing event!

02 July 2009

Vet Art Project USA Begins!

The Vet Art Project started with an idea created because of a radio program featuring Edward Tick, author of War and the Soul. My plan was to begin the project here in Chicago and grow it across the country because there are veterans and family members of veterans and active duty military personnel in need of our support everywhere; and artists are everywhere, too. So . . . we just launched the Vet Art Project USA page on our Web site: vetartproject.com. Please visit it and see where we're growing projects already with contact names and e-mail addresses. Don't see your city listed? Want to get involved? Send an e-mail to lisa@lisarosenthal.com to see how you make a difference!

Do-ing, Not Writing!

Hello Friends,
We here at the Vet Art Project have been very busy over the past month. We've been busy DOing, not writing. We've . . .

Done a Mapping Workshop at the Chicago Cultural Center, led by psychologist Jan Johnston

Appeared at the Sharing the Power Mental Health Conference to talk about the healing power of art and the Vet Art Project

Performed "The Journey of a Soldier" and led a talkback with veterans in the audience & Christina Reddington offered a creative arts workshop on telling stories with pictures instead of words

Presented a program, including art created in the project, at a DePaul University Veterans event talking about the Vet Art Project and finding ways to work with the veterans at DePaul

And we've had many meetings building our network of support here in Chicago and around the country!

02 June 2009

Vet Art Project Participates in Chicago's Memorial Day Parade

Thanks go to Will Schmutz, Director & Community Liaison on the Commission on Human Relations and Mayor Daley's Advisory Council on Veterans Affairs, for helping to make this possible. We met many wonderful people on this day!

Milwaukee Performances Support Dryhootch.org

Over this last weekend the Vet Art Project was invited by our dear friend Bob Curry of Dryhootch.org to come to Milwaukee and perform at the Reclaiming Our Heritage event on the historic VA grounds. We knew this was a big event but I had no idea what a huge experience this would be. The shows went off without a hitch. F. David Roth, Curtis Jackson and Dave Strong gave voice to the stories of Vietnam veterans, and others. The honor and respect they gave these words was powerful and moving. I witnessed connections made among actors, veterans, family and friends that stole my breath. So much was communicated with a simple embrace, handshake, and thank you between artists and veterans. This connection, the sharing and the attempt to understand, is why we were at the event and why we do what we do.

Other notes from the day. . .
* Soldiers from wars going back as far as the Civil War to today were represented. I almost tripped over a few hoop skirts while touring the various eras, but given my klutzy track record this comes as no surprise.
* I was unable to visit the library but I have on good authority (Bob Curry himself) our good friend Jeanine Hill-Soldner has several paintings on display (Yeah Jeanine!).
* Special visits from Curtis’s parents—lovely people!—and the wonderful Bob Breuler and Suzy Petri came by after visiting another historic venue Ten Chimneys!
* It was a great day, the weather was lovely and company was extraordinary.

I would like to thank you all for everything that you do.
Jessa Carlstrom, Vet Art Project Co-Lead Artist

01 April 2009

New Ideas Gained at ASGPP Conference

I just returned from the American Society of Group Psychotherapy and Psychodrama conference in St. Louis. I learned more about sociodrama, drama therapy, and playback theater--all tools that I'm considering as we grow the project forward. This was just a first taste--there is much more to learn--more training!--before considering incorporating any of these.
I reached out to many new people, too--the community continues to grow. 
Are you engaged? If not, why not? It only takes one person to make a change. And that's no April Fool's. The way to peace is to be the peace you wish to see and art can light your path.

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, 
committed citizens can change the world."--Margaret Mead

20 March 2009

In Gratitude

After some time away and much needed rest, I'm back in Chicago and counting my blessings. There are so many reasons I'm grateful. Working with Veterans and helping them communicate their wisdom to others is THE MOST REWARDING work I have ever done. It's the best way to create art:
--contributing something positive to the world, 
--helping others, and 
--being artistically satisfied.
It doesn't get any better than this.

I'm very grateful, too, for the wonderful work by Lynette of Chicago Public Radio. She spent hours recording our workshops, interviewing participants, and creating a wonderful feature for 848 and All Things Considered and it continues to bring us additional support in a variety of ways. Lynette continues to offer assistance to the project. People don't come any better than this! Thank you Lynette! (Thanks, too, to Karin McKie who helped me build this connection many months ago.)

More veterans are asking to be a part of the project.

More artists are reaching out and asking to be part of the project.

Artists already connected to the project continue to offer their assistance in new ways as we grow the Vet Art Project forward.

And just today I received a wonderful unsolicited vote of support for the work we do from the good people of the Orgie Theatre Committee who write:
"Best of luck with the wonderful work you do."

I feel very fortunate to live in this time and in this great land because it provides me with opportunities to assist others and make a difference.

And lastly, and ABSOLUTELY FIRST on my gratitude list, is my husband Ted who is supportive in so many ways. Without him, none of this would be possible.

27 February 2009

Ripple Effects of the Vet Art Project Incubator at the Chicago Cultural Center

Here are some interesting ripples in the Chicago Community caused by the Vet Art Project:

2 people were so inspired by the program they are now going to volunteer at their local VA

DCA Theater is now permanently offering a discount ticket price to all veterans

Many veterans are calling to participate in the next project

Many people are asking where they can see this performance because they're sorry they missed it. (Sorry, this was a single night performance unless . . . anyone interested in remounting this?)

We now have a mailing list.

Do you know of a ripple effect? Please add it to the comments!

Here are some kind words of support we've received to date:

"It was an honor to work with professionals who really, truly and genuinely care about veterans and their lives. It's a great start to reaching out to other veterans and people." --Bill Crist, Vietnam Veteran

"Thank you so very much for letting us participate in this incredible program. You did a hell of a job many can be very proud of!" -- Bob Curry, Vietnam Veteran, Founder dryhootch.org

"They were all moving, riveting, resounding, stirring, saddening, maddening. You have given us a great gift with your vision." --Ilona Meagher, author of Moving a Nation to Care, ptsdcombat.blogspot.com

"All of my students were moved, amazed, and surprised by their trip to the Vet Arts Project performance." --Carolyn Hoerdemann, DePaul instructor, actress, artist participant in the Vet Art Project
"I was so deeply moved by Monday night. There were so many moments that touched me so deeply. This work is so important. Thank you!! I have always  believed Theater, and Art in any form, has the power to transform the world." --Rohina, solo artist

"I just wish there was another performance because I've been telling everyone about it, and I think there are so many people who need to see it. " --Dawn Leader-Peloso, writer, DePaul graduate student

"What an amazing accomplishment and turn out. . . . I was so inspired that I called Jesse Brown VA Hospital and asked about volunteering." --Jennifer Miller, writer, yoga instructor in training

"You did such a beautiful job on the Vet Art Project and performance. It was so moving to see the culmination of all your work on this journey. Sending you, the project's artists, and most importantly the veterans, a sincere thank you for this amazing collaboration and sharing these vital, haunting, spirited stories with us." --Cynthia Frahm, Development Director, Chicago Dramatists

"A fabulous and inspirational evening. It seems that what can be a somewhat touchy and cautious topic was opened up with dignity and grace. . . . I was deeply moved." --Gail Adduci, Dance/Movement Therapist who has worked with Veterans & whose brother is an OIF Veteran

"That was an AWESOME event last night. . . . A reminder that as individuals we can all make a difference. Well done!" --Diane J. Rakocy, writer, visual artist, and Vet Art Project artist participant

"It was an amazing experience to engage in community building with other artists who work in other media with a much, much larger purpose in mind." Suellen Semekoski, adjunct faculty member, School of the Art Institute and Vet Art Project artist participant

"WOW that was so moving on Monday night. . . . Thank you for all the love you have shared!" --Kathleen Nesbitt, writer, writing coach, and Vet Art Project artist participant

Vet Art Project Incubator at Chicago Cultural Center--BY THE NUMBERS

As we take time to assess the amazing community we gathered in the Studio Theater for programs and the Preston Bradley Hall performance of New Art About War last Monday, I want to share some figures with you:

30       Number of Veteran Participants

>60    Number of Artist Participants

>240   Number of People Who Attended Community Building Workshops & Creative Arts Programming as part of the Vet Art Project (in the first two weeks & final day of programming)

230    Number of People Who Attended the New Art About War Performance on 02.23.09

We also are receiving many grateful e-mails from audience members. I'll post these soon.

Impressions After Witnessing the New Art About War Performance by the Vet Art Project

Two friends & I were impressed by the art work, short plays and essays performed for the Vet Arts Project at the Chicago Cultural Center last Tuesday.

It was so good to see Lisa Rosenthal, the creator/leader, at the end of the program, call to the stage all the people involved in
the production. What a work of art to coordinate this varied group.

I have been thinking about the different pieces such as the female veteran of the Iraq conflict and the father struggling to understand both the loss of his older brother in the Vietnam war and his son preparing to be a Navy Seal.

Only Lisa Rosenthal could lead artists to explore this troubling, difficult part of our existence as North American U. S. citizens.

I was glad to see Ted Hogarth, a skilled saxophonist perform with the veteran inspired musical group toward the end of the program.

I am grateful to have experienced the Vet Arts Project and share it with others.


26 February 2009

25 February 2009

A Letter to the Editor about the Vet Art Project Performance on Monday Night

Here's a letter to the editor that one audience member wrote and sent to the Chicago papers. Let's hope his voice is picked up in news print. He writes . . .

On Monday evening, February 23rd, I was one of over 200 people who attended the Vet Art Project performance as part of the Incubator Series at the Chicago Cultural Center. As the brainchild of Lisa Rosenthal, the Vet Art Project creates opportunities for veterans to work in collaboration with artists from all disciplines to create new art about war for public performance and viewing. The Vet Art Project's mission states: "The Vet Art Project is based on the belief that we must talk of war to think of peace, and an understanding that it is our veterans who will lead the way." The evening, entitled "New Art About War," included 19 staged performances including poetry, short plays, dance, and music. There was also a gallery full of haunting visual art and a film that was being screened as the audience filtered in.

As I took in the various works I was struck by the clarity with which these veterans expressed themselves, unapologetically sharing their fear, shame, guilt, and grief. They spoke of their experiences in war, the difficulties of returning home and the pride they feel for their country and its citizens. It was amazing to see the catharsis these veterans were able to achieve when given the proper outlet, and I can only imagine what kind of relief was provided to them via this opportunity. I wonder what the effect would be if warriors in more oppressed parts of the world were given an audience and a chance to strike out with their voices rather than their weapons.  --Dave Strong

23 February 2009

Tonight's the Night!

We are in the middle of preparing for tonight's performance. We've been gifted the space of Preston Bradley Hall and we continue to get reservations, now approaching 250. The community is embracing the project and we are very grateful. And I am grateful by the many gifts this project has brought into my life and the lives of all the participants:
new sources of support
new understanding
new career directions
new insights
new commitments
new partnerships
new friendships
Please join us this evening. It is the next step in the journey. A journey that will continue.
We do receive
Peace through Art,

"It's awesome. It's fantastic. I'm glad to be a part of it."
"Talking to people, not being judged, it's been great."
--Matt Ping, OEF veteran

"I'm just in awe. The support from friends and family for this project has meant the world to me, and restored my faith in humanity."
--Jessa Carlstrom, uber artist and Vet Art co-facilitator

Inspired by a Veteran--One Story Among Many

The stories of our Vet Art participant veterans are powerful in their re-creations of the daily tragedies of war. Not only has the Vet Art Project stirred up many war-related memories in my mind, it has rekindled a desire to be more politically active. I am grateful to a veteran who inspired me to write a letter to President Obama about the purpose of the current wars.

In a recent Newsweek article entitled "Obama's Vietnam," (02.09.09), I was struck by the article's comparison of our current wars to the horrific situation my generation faced in Vietnam. Military expert Douglas Lute's statement that the U.S. has "never been beaten tactically in a fire fight in Afghanistan" is akin to the Vietnam era military expert Harry Summers' exchange with a North Vietnamese Army expert. When Summers had stated "you never defeated us in the field," the Vietnamese military officer simply replied, "That may be true. It is also irrelevant."

It is time for the U.S. to be "relevant" on so many fronts.

--Janis Clark Johnston

20 February 2009

The Good News at 6:14 a.m.

The excitement and the work rattled my bones awake this morning. Again. I walked up to my Studio to get some work done, to meditate, and hopefully soon, to get more than 4 hours of sleep. Before beginning my journey back to bed I checked the DCA Box Office for the number of tickets available to the Vet Art Project performance this Monday. Two days ago the DCA Theater staff offered us the magnificent venue of Preston Bradley Hall because we sold out the maximum number of seats that would fit in the Studio Theater space (99). Two days ago the set up of 200 seats showed 99 were available. Yesterday it hovered around 60-seats remaining. Now, at this early morning hour, there are 34 seats remaining. The word is spreading. The people are coming. We will have a fine and large community gather together to witness the stories.
I'm so proud of all of us--the veterans, the artists, the community members who have gathered together over the past month to witness the stories of those who serve us in the armed forces. We gather in their name. We gather in our name. We gather together to remember those we have lost and to honor those we are fighting not to lose. This is testament to people waking up and realizing that war affects us all and it the warriors who will lead us to peace if we give them our time and attention. We are a community. And we are growing ever stronger. Now I can hear the drums calling us not to war, but to peace. Now.

18 February 2009

My Dad's Stories, Contributed by Dani Brzozowski

My dad and I only rarely have fruitful conversations. When we do, they're frequently, morbidly, pragmatically, about his mortality, and the steps I (and my expert opinion--honed from WebMD and Reader's Digest) suggest to delay said mortality. It is out of the ordinary for us to discuss much beyond the trans fat content of a bag of pretzels. I occasionally call him out on his erratic behavior, and even more occasionally, he responds with less an explanation of the cause of his behavior and more a reminder that he loves my mother, he loves me, etc.
He knows he has PTSD and we all know, too. But none of us knows what it means for him or for any of us. It's less an elephant in the room and more the room itself, all of us living in it, unsure of ourselves, in the cavernous confines, echoing space PTSD opens up.
Dad has been a soldier ever since I can remember and, as his retirement draws near (he swears this time it's for real, this time he won't chicken out), he's turned reflective, opening up in a way that is at once fascinating and uncomfortable.
His stories are my stories, and hearing these stories is essential--it's how I build out my personal history, the sage of my family. As a writer, being denied these stories has always pained me. I (selfishly) thought it was unfair for them to be withheld, thought he was being cruel by keeping from me the secrets that I thought held the key to his identity and subsequently my own.
Working with the Vet Art Project gave me the opportunity to confront some of those secrets, to discover things about my DAd I didn't know. It gave me a chance to have a fruitful, honest conversation with him , and it forced me to be honest with myself. His stories do not belong to me. They belong to him and him alone, and I know now that this, not selfishness, not cruelty, is why he hasn't shared them before.
I know there are hundreds of secrets he clings to, dozens he'll probably never let go of, but I'm grateful to have witnessed the stories he's been willing to share, and I'll continue to keep my ears perked up, just in case he decides to share again.

11 February 2009

Midway Reflections

The Vet Art Project is about midway through our time in the Studio Theater and the gifts are many. Some incredible things are happening. Connections among the veterans are being built and between veterans and artists, between veterans and those who are still active in their service. Decades may separate the veterans yet many elements of their journeys are the same: estrangement from self, from others, a shattered self, the loss of one's soul. We paint it, we draw it, we create collages based on it, we discuss it, we write about it. The artists are learning a great deal, too, and we share it and will continue to share it, as we receive the blessings of community and connection. This experience has changed the lives of many--not just the veterans but the artists as well.
We look forward to sharing the results with the wider community at the performance on 2.23 @ 7:30 p.m. followed by a talkback.

07 February 2009

Amazing Moments in the Vet Art Project

As the first week of the Vet Art Project draws near, we have shared many moments of great insight and witnessed many precious jewels revealed. I invite you to add your favorites here. Here's my list so far:
--The reverent silence of the artists the first night when Bob and John from Dryhootch.org opened up and shared their life journeys and their challenges with PTSD.
--Hearing two male combat veterans thank another female veteran for her service, off the field of combat, and letting her know that her service was equally as valuable.
--Witnessing the stories of two combat veterans, whose experiences are separated by 40 years, yet their journeys back are similar.
--A female veteran opening up to share her story with a reporter while she made a collage in words and pictures
[The pictured image was created by Christina Reddington, RN, the facilitator of the Picture Stories of War program.]

06 February 2009

First Night Reflections--on last Tuesday

The artists' orientation began the Vet Art Project with nearly 40 artists sharing different stories and reasons for getting involved in the project. The room felt electric yet vast, widened by our various journeys to this place and time. Yet when Bob and John, two Vietnam Veterans began to share their stories of time lost and challenges they've faced due to PTSD, and how they were saved because of the kindness and support of family members and friends, we came together as one community. We gather to bare witness to these truths, to help strengthen these voices, to create art to express these feelings and realities. We realized we gathered for one purpose: to support our veterans in their truth by bringing these stories to the community and connect us all by how we are affected by war.

31 January 2009

Vet Art Project & Chicago Dramatists Receives the Towner Award by the Illinois Humanities Council

The Towner Award is presented annually to an IHC project, to encourage risk-taking in the development and execution of a public humanities project. In the past venture and risk-taking have been demonstrated through new formats, unusual venue, use or imaginative interpretation of the humanities disciplines not usually integrated into public humanities programs, or through an attempt to reach an audience not usually associated with the humanities. The Towner Award was created by the IHC Board of Directors in 1985 in memory of a past chairman, Lawrence W. Towner.

25 January 2009

Vet Art Project Time Is Almost Here! Schedule of Programs Announced

Hello Friends,
February is almost here and that means its time to create art, community, and more in the Studio Theater of the Chicago Cultural Center. Please see the full calendar of events listed at www.vetartproject.com. The link to see or print out the schedule is in the upper right hand corner of the first page of that Web site. Note some programs require an advance registration and some programs are open to the public.
Thanks for all your support, care, and kind words. We are making a difference!