veterans playing guitar onstage

Dave Dunklee performs with participants from The Healing Box Project, April 2018

In partnership with the Missouri Arts Council, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts, Mid-America Arts Alliance presented Art Ease: A Regional Convening on Arts and the Military in Kansas City in April 2018.

The arts have the power to assist our nation’s military service with creative expressions and art therapies. The arts add value beyond the aesthetic, using creativity to enhance outcomes that are economic, therapeutic, educational, and engaging. The convening served active service members, veterans and their families, artists, arts organizations and arts administrators, nonprofits, businesses, foundations, educators, and government agencies.

Our keynote speaker was the esteemed Nolen Bivens, president, Leader Six, Inc. A US Army Brigadier General, Retired, Bivens serves as Chair of the National Leadership Advisory Council, the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military (NIAHM); and is Senior Policy Fellow, Arts & Military, with Americans for The Arts. Other presenters included nationally recognized regional experts:

Jennifer Allen-Barron, Oklahoma Arts Council
Lisa Carrico, Missouri Humanities Council
Arthur S. DeGroat, Ed.D, Lieutenant Colonel, Retired, US Army, and founder and executive director, Office of Military and Veterans Affairs Innovation Center at Kansas State University
Dave and CJ Dunklee, co-founders, Healing Box Project
Darden Smith, founder and creative director, SongwritingWith:Soliders
Jonathan Wei, founder and director, The Telling Project

Veteran artists gave moving performances and readings, and our experts illuminated the power of the arts in healing, growing, and prospering for our military communities. An anonymous survey respondent gave this feedback: “I know I’m very glad that you’re doing this. Because I’m a veteran, I see the real need for arts in the military and veterans. It is very healing.”

Images, left to right: the Gladstone, MO VFW Post 10906 Color Guard presentation of the colors; Darden Smith performs; Gen. Nolen Bivens presents the keynote; Dave Dunklee performs with participants from the Healing Box Project. All images by Maggie Price and courtesy of Mid-America Arts Alliance.

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