Veterans Creative Arts Festival Recognizes Veteran Progress and Recovery

The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival is the culmination of talent competitions in art, creative writing, dance, theater and music for veterans treated in the national healthcare system GO.

Veterans exhibit their original artwork and writing, or perform musical, dance or dramatic selections during a live performance. All veterans invited to participate are the selected winners of the year-long National Fine Art Talent Competitions. Thousands of veterans are entering VA medical facilities across the country.

Annual competition recognizes progress and recovery

The festival is co-presented by VA and the American Legion Auxiliary.

VA medical facilities integrate the creative arts into their therapy programs to advance inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation goals. This annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery achieved through this therapy. It also increases the visibility of the creative accomplishments of our country’s veterans.

First place winners of the 2021 competition will be recognized at the 41st National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in St. Petersburg, Florida, April 20-24. This year’s event is hosted by the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System.

Art, dance, theatre, music therapy

Creative Arts Therapies in VA are staffed by distinct, professionally trained and credentialed therapists in Art Therapy, Dance/Movement Therapy, Drama Therapy, and Music Therapy.

Our services provide veterans with comprehensive creative arts therapies using creative modalities and clinical treatment interventions to promote recovery, rehabilitation and well-being. The goals of creative arts therapy treatment target improved cognition and sensorimotor function, emotional resilience, social and coping skills.

Creative arts therapists work to facilitate veterans’ engagement in their community. They also provide a sense of accomplishment and channel energies into productive forms of behavior.

49 VA facilities will add creative arts therapies

Across the country each year, veterans enrolled in VA health care facilities participate in a local creative arts competition. The contest includes categories in the visual arts division that range from oil paint to leather goods to paint-by-number kits. There are also categories in writing, as well as the performing arts of dance, theater, and music.

The winning entries from the local creative arts competition move on to a national judging process. There, the first, second and third places in each category are determined. Selected gold medal-winning veterans are invited to attend the National Veteran Creative Arts Festival, which is held at a different VA facility each year.

art therapy

Art therapists use artistic media, the creativity of the veteran and the resulting artwork to help veterans do their introspection. This introspection helps reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behaviors and addictions, develop social skills, reduce anxiety, and increase self-esteem.

Dance therapy helps veterans explore emotional and social integration.

Dance and movement therapy

Dance/Movement Therapists use movement to help Veterans explore their physical, emotional, cognitive, and social integration within a therapeutic care setting. Dance/movement therapy provides a means of assessment and a mode of intervention through expressive, communicative and adaptive body movement.

Drama therapy

Drama therapists use dramatic and theatrical processes to achieve therapeutic goals by providing a context for veterans to set goals, express themselves, tell their stories, and solve problems. This therapeutic approach can help veterans actively explore their self-awareness and improve their interpersonal skills.

Music therapy

Music therapists use clinical music interventions, such as active listening to music, singing, reading, creating, and improvising through various musical modalities to achieve veterans’ treatment goals for their health and well-being. physical, emotional, cognitive and social/emotional.

Medical conditions

Through education, clinical training, research, and hands-on experience, creative arts therapists treat veterans with neurological, orthopedic, medical, surgical, and mental disorders.

The programs provide opportunities for functional rehabilitation and recovery through clinical interventions, education, counselling, training and discharge planning with a holistic approach to recovery and community integration.

To learn more about VA’s Recreational Therapy and Creative Arts Therapy service, visit

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