Veterans find unexpected support at National Veterans Creative Arts Festival

First of the five-part blog series, Unspoken Understanding

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Deidre Hines, a retired U.S. Air Force veteran, describes the anxiety she regularly experiences as “a thousand angry butterflies beating against my chest.” Hines, who has lived in a veterans homeless facility in California, sought to capture those feelings in an art project. With little money to spare, she stopped at thrift stores in search of canvases that she could buy for a couple of dollars.

The used canvases provided the foundation for her art project, which features street maps and hundreds of tiny paper butterflies she created using a butterfly-shaped hole punch. Those two major elements represent both suffering and reflection.

The butterflies depict her anxiety and that feeling of them beating against her chest; and the maps represent her military career, which brought her where she is.

The maps and butterflies were blended with other elements to form “Anatomy of My Anxiety,” Hines’ entry at the 2016 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF) last fall in Jackson, Miss.

“The idea that I’m here right now totally blows my mind,” Hines said.

Nationwide, Department of Veterans Affairs medical facilities use creative arts to help veterans cope with, and recover from, physical and emotional disabilities. Veterans in VA facilities compete in a local creative arts competition which includes a variety of visual and performing arts categories. A national selection committee chooses first-, second-, and third-place winners. Select winners are invited to NVCAF each year.

More than 100 gold-medal winning veterans attended the 2016 NVCAF, where veterans displayed their talents in 147 categories spanning three divisions: performing arts, including dance, drama, and music; visual arts; and creative writing.

The 2017 National Veterans Creative Arts Festival will be Oct. 23-30 in Buffalo, N.Y.

Since 2000, the American Legion Auxiliary has been an NVCAF co-sponsor along with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. In addition to raising funds for the festival, the American Legion Auxiliary provides volunteers who assist at the event.

Click here to learn more about the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. To see local news coverage of the 2016 NVCAF, visit and

This is the first of a five-part blog series, Unspoken Understanding. Read the other posts here: Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.


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