-Minnesota State Arts Board - Minnesota North Star


Legacy Amendment logo
Click here for more information about the legacy amendment


Veterans in the Arts:
unleashing the inner artist within veterans

To some, the solider and the artist may seem worlds apart. Yet linking together those two worlds is the goal of one Minnesota organization.

Launched in 2010, Veterans in the Arts is designed to introduce combat veterans to the power of the arts through community-based programs of progressive instruction in a variety of art forms. With support from an Arts Learning grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Veterans in the Arts is collaborating with three arts centers – Northern Clay Center, Highpoint Center for Printmaking, and Minnesota Center for Book Arts – to help unleash the inner artist within veterans.

“There are 40,000 combat veterans in the Twin Cities alone, yet as a group, veterans are very underrepresented in the arts community,” says Suzanne Asher, executive director of Veterans in the Arts. “They deserve an opportunity to discover their own creative potential and to reap that quality that the arts can offer.”

“War is not a private matter,” says Asher. “It is also public, and art is a public medium.”

Through the arts, Asher and her organization believe many wounded and suffering veterans are able to resolve trauma and learn new disciplines of self-expression and personal development.

“Traditional approaches to art are often times too structured for the average veteran,” said Asher, who served in the U. S. Air Force. “We aid their re-integration by gently leading veterans from their conflicted solitude into the civilian communities that surround them.”

For three months last year, a group of veterans enrolled in weekly studio classes at the Northern Clay Center, constructing open and lidded vessels. Under the guidance of their teacher, an Iraq War veteran, they quickly congealed into a happy and supportive group. More than learning the basics of potters’ wheels and kilns, the veterans learned respect for the power of art by making connections between having an idea and expressing that idea through an art form.

“The veterans didn’t depict war as much as they talked about war while working on their ‘peaceful’ projects,’” says Asher. “They were intensely curious and eager.”

About This Grant:

Veterans in the Arts is a FY 2011 Arts Learning grant recipient. This grant program is funded by the Minnesota State Arts Board through the arts and cultural heritage fund as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature with money from the Legacy Amendment vote of the people of Minnesota on November 4, 2008.

New to the arts, one Vietnam veteran found a joy in stretching his limits – barely believing he had created bowls, cups, and plates. Another Vietnam veteran was driven to do art in order to relieve the intensity of his memories. He says he found comfort in the relaxed atmosphere of the class, in contrast to previous art experiences that left him feeling constrained and out of place.

For one Navy veteran, the clay class quite literally has changed his life.

“Years of alcohol abuse had destroyed his marriage and his life,” says Asher. “But this man discovered in art, a capacity for focus and creativity that can successfully challenge the bad habits he is trying to escape. ‘These classes motivate me to get my life together so I can come here each week,’ he said. And he faithfully commuted one hour each way to class, never missing a session.”

With funding from Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment, Veterans in the Arts allows former soldiers to emotionally engage with a medium and to form meaningful personal art that veterans can share with each other and eventually the larger public.

“War is not a private matter,” says Asher. “It is also public, and art is a public medium.”

With that in mind, Veterans in the Arts plans to produce public art exhibitions in the near future. Looking further ahead, the group’s ultimate goal is to establish small communities of veterans in arts centers around the state.

“Veterans have fought on our behalf for our way of life,” says Asher. “Their voices, with their wisdom and experience, need to be part of the broader community comprising us all.”

Home | Contact Us | Grants | Other Opportunities | News | Vendor Information | Deadlines/Calendar | Regional Arts Councils