Arts festival helps veterans heal and feel again

The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival (NVCAF) embraces learning and friendship while celebrating the healing power of the creative arts. It has been shown that creative arts therapy helps people improve their mental and emotional states by encouraging expression in a non-threatening way.

NVCAF is an annual showcase of fine arts pieces — in the areas of writing, art, dance, drama, and music — crafted or performed by veterans enrolled at VA medical facilities in various parts of the country. What a terrific way to help veterans while publicly recognizing their artistic achievements!

The week-long festival includes art workshops, writing seminars, plus excursions for the participants, and culminates in an art exhibit, creative writers meet-and-greet, and a live stage show. NVCAF is held in a different community each year.

Because of the therapeutic benefits veterans can reap from creative arts, the American Legion Auxiliary has remained committed to being a co-sponsor of NVCAF along with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs since 2000.

“This is one way to help veterans throughout the entire country showcase their talent. It gives them something to be proud of, with some going on to earn a living from their art,” said Jane Benzel, ALA national Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Committee Northwestern Division chairman. “Without the ALA’s support, both financially and with volunteers, it may not be able to continue. It is a phenomenal program.”

All totaled, ALA members nationwide give about $25 million worth of volunteer hours to each year’s festival in numerous ways, including:

  • Assisting veterans with art projects;
  • Raising funds for eligible veterans to travel to the festival;
  • Supporting event publicity;
  • Helping with stage productions; and
  • Doing other tasks throughout the year in preparation for NVCAF.

Veterans at VA medical facilities are eligible to compete in their local Veterans Creative Arts Festival competitions, which may qualify them to exhibit at the national level. Of the more than 2,300 veterans who submitted artwork for the 2016 competitions, 120 were selected as gold medal winners to attend NVCAF.

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

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 fourth of a five-part blog series, Unspoken Understanding. Read the other posts here: Part 1Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.

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