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NEA Announces more than $760,000 in Creative Forces Community Engagement Grants

By Elizabeth Snell

A group of performers on a stage. While most people are standing with their hands or first in the air, two men kneel beside a performer in a wheelchair.

Supporting Military, Veterans, Their Families and Caregivers

The National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), in partnership with Mid-America Arts Alliance, is pleased to announce this year’s Creative Forces® Community Engagement grant recipients. Awards are recommended to 34 organizations totaling $764,783 and will expand the work of Creative Forces into more communities nationwide. These community-based arts programming projects will address the distinct experiences, challenges, and strengths of military-connected populations through the arts.

View the complete list of recipients and projects.

“We are excited to witness how these arts engagement activities have the power to enhance the health and well-being of our military and veteran populations,” said Maria Rosario Jackson, PhD, chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. “These Creative Forces Community Engagement projects are vital in helping to improve the quality of life for military-connected people, bolster health equity through the arts, and build healthy communities where all people can thrive.”

Creative Forces®: NEA Military Healing Arts Network is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs that seeks to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for military and veteran populations exposed to trauma, as well as their families and caregivers. These grants will serve a broad population, including active duty service members, guardsmen, reservists, veterans, military and veteran families, as well as caregivers and healthcare workers providing care for military service members and veterans.

“We’ve seen how art can create new bonds of connection and understanding through the Creative Forces Community Engagement projects, especially for those in our military communities who may feel isolated and alone,” said Todd Stein, president and CEO of Mid-America Arts Alliance. “We are honored to partner with the National Endowment of the Arts on this grant program, and we are continually inspired by the power of these projects to deliver hope and healing to our service members, veterans, and their families.”

Creative Forces Community Engagement projects support non-clinical arts programming in a variety of settings with one or more of the following participant outcomes in mind:

  • Creative Expression: Participants have a better understanding of themselves and others by creating or engaging with art.
  • Social Connectedness: Participants have supportive relationships in their life and a sense of belonging to a community.
  • Resilience: Participants feel they can rebound from stress, unexpected events, or life’s challenges.
  • Independence and successful adaptation to civilian life: Participants have both an individual and shared sense of purpose, as well a positive self-worth, that supports adapting and readjusting to civilian life.

Examples of grantee programming include:

  • In Service of Empowerment: The Artistry of Women Veterans, a collaborative project by ArtsQuest in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and Women Veterans Empowered and Thriving (WVE&T). The project will offer multidisciplinary arts engagement activities such as film screenings, spoken word performances, artwork exhibitions, and education events for local students. The goal is to foster healthy camaraderie, creativity, and community among women veterans, their families, and communities.
  • Song Stories project by the Center for Traditional Music and Dance in New York, New York. Led by Guinean artist Sidiki Conde (2007 NEA National Heritage Fellow), the project will consist of two interconnected workshop series held at the James J. Peters Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center and the Bronx Music Heritage Center. Participants will tell their individual stories through music, movement, and rhythm, creating a space for emotional expression and social connectivity. The program also aims to increase access and support for VA services and community organizations.
  • Heroes Home Gate by Footprints, Inc., a multidisciplinary arts program to make visual and performing arts more accessible for residents at their transitional housing facility for veterans in Kansas City, Missouri. The program aims to offer a variety of outlets for artistic expression, engagement, and skill-building, and to support recovery and social reintegration. Ultimately, the program will allow veterans to engage in creative expression to help support their successful reintegration into civilian life.
  • Art & Wellness Program for Veterans and Summer Camp for Families of Veterans by Open Studio Project in Evanston, Illinois, a visual arts and reflection program designed for veterans and their families. Through art-making and personal reflection, participants will explore their emotions, process trauma, and address unique experiences faced by military families. Open Studio Project recognizes the long-term emotional impact of military service on veterans and their families. The program aims to offer an art-based approach to support their healing and reintegration. The project is partnering with local veterans and military organizations and will primarily work with Evanston Vet Center.
  • An intergenerational photography program called Cameras in Communities: Our Family, Our Story by Outside the Lens. This free program will explore digital storytelling and documentary photography for military-connected families in San Diego, California, culminating in a public exhibition of participants’ media art. The program was designed with input from the military community and in partnership with organizations such as USO San Diego, which brings decades of research and experience working with veterans and military families. The program offers a safe and transformative space for participants to connect, share stories, and make art, providing opportunities for healing and growth.

Free resources are available to organizations wishing to advance their arts programming to support military service members, veterans, their families and caregivers on the Creative Forces National Resource Center. Resources made available to Creative Forces grantee organizations may be accessed by anyone.

About the Creative Forces Initiative

Creative Forces®: NEA Military Healing Arts Network is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs that seeks to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for military and veteran populations exposed to trauma, as well as their families and caregivers. Creative Forces is managed in partnership with Americans for the Arts, Civic Arts, the Henry M. Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine, and Mid-America Arts Alliance.

More information can be found at arts.gov/creativeforces and creativeforcesnrc.arts.gov or follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and LinkedIn.

About the National Endowment for the Arts

Established by Congress in 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts is an independent federal agency that is the largest funder of the arts and arts education in communities nationwide and a catalyst of public and private support for the arts. By advancing equitable opportunities for arts participation and practice, the NEA fosters and sustains an environment in which the arts benefit everyone in the United States. To learn more, visit arts.gov or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.


Related Content:

Creative Forces: Community Engagement (National Resource Center)

Creative Forces: Resources (videos, program facts, stories)  

List of Grants this Round with Project Descriptions

List of Grantee Projects from May 2022 Announcement


Photography credit: Kentucky Shakespeare’s Shakespeare with Veterans program inaugural performance on the C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater Stage in July 2016. An NEA Creative Forces Community Engagement grant will support the Shakespeare with Veterans program’s weekly discussions and theater arts performance ensembles for veterans. Photo by Kentucky Shakespeare.