Chairman's Corner: July 9, 2020

Jo Reed:  I'm Josephine Reed from the National Endowment for the Arts with The Chairman's Corner, a weekly podcast with Mary Anne Carter, Chairman of the Arts Endowment. This is where we'll discuss issues of importance to the arts community and a whole lot more.

While many of the Arts Endowment's staff and, indeed many of the podcasts, have focused on the CARES Act, Mary Anne, I know you've always been quick to note that the agency has continued with its other work and its other initiatives. And you wanted to spend some time today talking about one of those programs, Creative Forces. So, I thought you might begin by giving us an overview, in case people don't know about the program.

Mary Anne Carter: Okay, yes, Jo, Creative Forces is the National Endowment for the Arts military healing arts program that we conduct in partnership with the US Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs, as well as in partnership with our state and local arts agencies. The program places creative art therapies, that includes art, music, dance, movement, at the core of patient-centered care at military medical clinics throughout the country. There's also a telehealth program in addition to community arts activities and what we call "capacity building" or "resource development," all designed to promote health and wellness of military service members, veterans, and their families and caregivers. The piece of Creative Forces that I want to focus on today is research, because on July 15th, next Wednesday, the Creative Forces National Resource Center, or NRC, will launch. And the NRC is an online portal to best practices, tool kits, stories, research, and so much more, all related to implementing the arts as a part of healing.

Jo Reed: Mary Anne, can you tell us just a little bit more about the Creative Forces Resource Center, the materials people can expect to find there, and, actually, who's expected to use it?

Mary Anne Carter: For the launch, the NRC will showcase its research materials with information related to other initiative components, rolling out over the next several months. For anyone interested in Creative Arts therapies, from researchers to art and music therapists to the general public, this will be the place to go to find a wealth of information. I've been talking a lot lately about the healing powers of the arts and nothing demonstrates the way that the arts impact our minds, our bodies, and souls the way that Creative Forces does.

Jo Reed: How many service member-- I mean, and just a ballpark figure, about how many service members, former service members, are living with traumatic brain injury or PTSD?

Mary Anne Carter: More than 500,000 men and women of our Armed Forces are living with TBI or PTSD. These two conditions contribute to depression and, sadly, the estimated 20 suicides committed by veterans each day.

Jo Reed: Ay. And how many people does Creative Force reach?

Mary Anne Carter: Well, we're trying to make a difference here. Creative Arts therapists supported by the National Endowment for the Arts provide more than 20,000 treatment sessions every year and we're reaching more than 3,500 new patients every year. And research conducted through Creative Forces is showing us how the arts are helping our heroes re-gain their lives and their health and re-connect with their families and their communities.

Jo Reed: I know that Creative Forces has focused on-- primarily on art therapy and music therapy. Can you just walk us through how these therapies help? And we can begin with arts.

Mary Anne Carter: Okay, and I just want to note that we did recently add dance and movement therapy. So, the art therapy includes painting, drawing, ceramics, mixed media, and especially mask making. Some research findings about art therapy include that it helps our service members express their struggles that are often hard to articulate in words. It improves concentration and memory and encourages connectivity in the brain, shifting from the survival brain that is essential in combat to the learning brain that is key to healing. And it channels aggressive behaviors and helps in coping with difficult feelings, such as grief, loss, avoidance, survivor's guilt and shame related to wartime actions. Then music therapy, both music making and performance, it addresses goals such as promoting relaxation and emotional regulation, managing hypervigilance and encouraging sleep. It also supports, as we've seen over and over, familial bonding and interpersonal communication.

Jo Reed: And, of course, we all know how vital those connections to family and community are to healing.

Mary Anne Carter:  Absolutely, and, you know, Jo, I'm really proud of what Creative Forces has accomplished to-date and what we will continue to accomplish in the future, bringing the restorative and rehabilitating power of the arts to our military service members, veterans, and all those dedicated to helping them heal. It makes me so proud, especially as the daughter of a career military officer.

Jo Reed: Okay. Mary Anne, thank you so much.

Mary Anne Carter: Thank you, Jo.

Jo Reed: That was Mary Anne Carter Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts. To find out more about Creative Forces, go to And on July 15, there’s a free webinar introducing you to the research component of the NRC. Go to to learn more.  I’m Josephine Reed. Stay safe and thanks for listening.

Music Credit: “Renewal” composed and performed by Doug Smith from the cd The Collection.

The Chairman discusses the soon-to-be launched Creative Forces National Resource Center, an online portal for research and information about creative arts therapies.