The United States Veterans Arts Program (USVAP) is a Chicago-based non-profit 501c-3 that has melded contemporary veterans issues with community-based support, in order to highlight one of the most crucial concerns of our times: improving the health of the military and veteran population that suffers not only from physical disabilities, but also from PTSD and other mental health needs.
USVAP believes that art can address many of these issues. By encouraging and supporting an aesthetic response to the military experience, we hope to emphasize the diversity of the veteran population and to create a new identity of veterans as people who are capable, gifted, and resilient, and that they often possess the very voice that society needs to hear and to heed. Ultimately, we strive to encourage veterans to use their innate, intuitive pursuit of art: not necessarily as a profession, but as part of the universal human drive to create a powerful form of communication, one that contributes not only to the arts community, but to our society in general.
The broad mission of USVAP is “to increase the representation of veterans in the arts community”, and we believe that one of the best ways to do this is with our Artistic Tools Program. This initiative, started in 2009, provides durable supplies and resources to state and federal veterans facilities, to be used within that community, along with support and guidance provided by Recreation, Music and Art Therapists at those centers. By making these items available (musical instruments, photography equipment, painting, graphics and ceramics supplies, as well as many other art resources), we believe that we are bringing visibility to the power of art.
The idea for USVAP began in 1998, when Vietnam Veteran and musician Kimo Williams returned to Lai Khe, where he was stationed with the US Army 25th Combat Engineer Battalion in 1970. Originally, the purpose of that trip back to Vietnam was to complete work on his composition “Symphony for the Sons of Nam”. This journey became the inspiration to create an organization that would provide collaborative opportunities for American and Vietnamese artists.
Since then, USVAP has sponsored traditional and contemporary concerts by performing artists, master classes and multi-media events. In 2008, USVAP re-defined its’ mission in order to include and encourage veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq to take up the cause of artistic expression. As Kimo stated about his military experience.“The first time I came to Vietnam, I brought my M-16. The next time I came, I brought my guitar. I liked the second trip much better than the first.” USVAP exists in the hope that other veterans can also make that “second journey”, and share their experience with the rest of us through art.
Thank you for visiting USVAP and we hope that you will consider supporting our mission. Please send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The USVAP Artistic Tools project is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council (a state agency) and the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs.