Chairman's Corner: November 5, 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.  November 11th is Veterans Day, so it’s fitting to take a moment to mark the lives and stories of our veterans, and Mary Anne, I know you wanted to talk about Creative Forces, the National Endowment for the Arts Military Healing Arts Network.

Mary Anne Carter: That’s right, Jo.  Not only do I love Creative Forces, I think it is one of our best initiatives, but I’m also the daughter of a career military officer.  So whatever we can do to help our military men and women is really important to me, and through Creative Forces the Arts Endowment partners with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs and our state and local arts agencies.  The initiative seeks to improve the health, wellness and quality of life for military and veteran populations exposed to trauma, as well as helping their families and caregivers.

Jo Reed: Well, about a year and a half ago the Arts Endowment announced funding for 10 Community Connection projects at Creative Forces clinical sites across the country, and I’m really curious about these.  Tell us about them.

Mary Anne Carter: Well, these projects grew out of previously held summits conducted at each of the clinical sites.  Those summits offered an opportunity for the local military community to meet the local arts community and together begin to figure out ways that they could support each other through the arts.  The projects varied, of course, because the sites and communities, where they’re located, varied, and many of the projects now have moved online because of the pandemic.  But let me give you some examples of the activities we’re supporting.  In Vista, California, VETART will offer online clay sculpture workshops for veterans and their families.  The online classes will give participants a chance to share their sculptures, ask questions and just do sculpting exercises together.  The Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Baltimore, Maryland, is offering online classes focused on Shakespeare’s comedies with lessons in storytelling, improvisation, theater crafts and more, and in Jacksonville, North Carolina, the Creative Forces Open Studio hosts weekly online gatherings for military-connected people who learn about art, creative techniques and discover new tools and products.

Jo Reed: And there’s also an ongoing project that emerged from the Community Connection efforts in Florida.  It’s called VetArtSpan in Tampa, Florida, and I’m curious about VetArtSpan.

Mary Anne Carter: VetArtSpan is designed to demonstrate an artistic roadmap in support of the healing, wellness and reintegration of our veteran citizens and their families.  Among programs at VetArtSpan are podcasts and videos.  There are some outstanding stories among both of these, and here’s an example of one of the podcasts.  Reed Franklin is a Vietnam veteran who found music and a return trip to Vietnam to be powerful means to heal physically, mentally and emotionally.  Shortly after being diagnosed with cancer, Reed decided to return to Vietnam after leaving the battlefield more than 40 years ago.  He ended up playing music for hospital patients in Vietnam, singing with schoolchildren and singing in orphanages, and among his many <laughs> experiences is learning that the 1972 song by The Carpenters, “Top of the World,” was very popular in Vietnam.  Reed concludes by saying he made a decision years ago, quote, “Not to hate anybody.  Try to love everybody.  Be kind to everyone, and it makes life so simple.  As far as I’m concerned, we’re all related, we’re all cousins,” end quote, and I’m really glad to report that finally, after four cancer surgeries and treatments, Reed is now cancer-free.

Jo Reed: Ah, that’s good to hear.  That’s a great story, and you also mentioned there were videos from VetArtSpan?

Mary Anne Carter: Yes, and let me highlight just one.  This is called “Operation: Art of Valor,” at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida, where vets learn to create glass sculptures as individuals and as part of a creative team in an on-site hot shop.  The vets are involved in the entire process from developing the concept of each piece to handling the 2,000-degree molten glass, to the completed product.  Listening to the vets talk about their experience is so moving.  The esprit de corps that was foundational to their military careers is evident in how they talk about wanting to fulfill their roles in a group project to, quote, “not let anyone down,” and they note how the careful choreography required on the floor of the hot shop keeps them in the present, in the now, not dwelling on any problems or worries, and one of the hot shop instructors working with the vets said, “Art is healing, and that’s it.  That’s all there is to it.  Doesn’t matter how you approach it.  You’re healing something inside of you, and if it’s not inside of you, it’s inside someone else,” and Jo, I have been to the Morean Arts Center.  I have met with some of these veterans.  I have seen the glass sculpting done in person, and it’s magnificent.

Jo Reed: Mary Anne, that’s a great place to leave it.  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.  You can find out more about Creative Forces at and keep up with the arts endowment by following us on twitter @neaarts.
For the National Endowment for the Arts, 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 prepares for Veteran’s Day with a discussion about Creative Forces, the National Endowment for the Arts Military Healing Arts Network.