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.