When veterans return home from active duty, it's important to ensure they have access to services that will help them transition into the worlds of employment or academia. Fortunately, many organizations exist around the country to help vets with this transition, including those who find their calling is creating works of art. When veterans return from military service with inspiration, it can lead to breathtaking contributions to many different artistic mediums, and groups that feature their works can enable and fuel further creative expression.

"The show could act as inspiration to other veterans."

New exhibit in Lincoln
Gallery 9, an art cooperative in Lincoln, Nebraska, recently premiered a veterans-only show to demonstrate the ways ex-military artists in the area are expressing themselves. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, the idea came from a member of the co-op, Bruce Thiel, who also works for the Veterans Association for the region. He explained that the show could act as inspiration, with veterans coming in to see what fellow service members have created and perhaps deciding to take up art themselves.

Some of the artists whose works are on display at Gallery 9 gathered fuel for their pieces while serving. The news provider gave the example of Bryon Line, who gave up painting during a long military career but returned to it afterward, sometimes including imagery from his Army years, notably parachutes descending from a plane.

Thiel noted to the Journal Star, however, that a direct military influence on the work is not a prerequisite to be a part of the show. Some artists, such as Navy veteran Jeff Wild, keep their artistic careers and their service time separate. Thiel noted that the lineup of artists shows veterans have a variety of perspectives. Some, such as wounded Air Force vet Shaw McLoed, have used their work as a type of therapy.

Creative arts festival in Fargo
In Fargo, North Dakota, area veterans will compete across multiple disciplines in an art contest as part of a creative festival. According to The Forum of Fargo-Moorehead, the winners will become the area's representatives in a national contest held by the VA this fall. Everything from glasswork and pottery to drawing with pastels and jewelry creation will be judged by local artists. Of course, competition isn't the only thing on the agenda. The event is also a community gathering celebrating local veteran creativity, and will be open to the public in mid-February.

Whether at a gallery as in Lincoln, or with the direct involvement of the VA, as is occurring in Fargo, veterans art is seeing support by various groups around the country. This is an encouraging trend, as one of the most important elements of welcoming vets back into civilian society is ensuring they don't become isolated. Hearing what these individuals have to say as artists, whether the work is inspired by their time in the service or not, is a valuable form of connection. There are numerous skilled creators among the ranks of veterans, and there is much to learn from discovering their work.