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.