Monday, November 11, 2013

Veterans Find an Outlet to the Arts with USVAA

Veteran's Day comes once a year but there is much more we can do as a country for our veterans all the other days out of the year. Keith Jeffreys is making a difference by spearheading the non-profit arts organization United States Veterans Artist Alliance (USVAA). His primary goal is to assist veterans as they reintegrate into civilian life by giving them an outlet to pursue the arts.

A veteran himself, Jeffreys saw a rising number of soldiers who were interested in pursuing the arts but lacked the resources or connections to further their goals. In 2004, Jeffreys set out to create a non-profit arts organization supported by fellow veterans on his advisory board which now includes Rogue Machine's artistic director John Perrin Flynn, John Densmore and Ron Kovic (author of Born on the Fourth of July). Located in Culver City at the AMVETS Post II Building, USVAA continues to expand with a recently new chapter in San Francisco.

Rallying support is part of the challenge and Jeffreys is committed to getting the word out. With more awareness and outreach on the part of the arts community, USVAA is expanding its influence. There's a crucial need now for artists and established companies to work with veterans and help establish connections and networks to further the aims and provide opportunities for our returning servicemen and women.    

There is no limit on the type of art a veteran is interested in developing. All forms are given the same consideration and thorough support through funding and collaborating with other non-profit arts organizations. The result has seen a ripple effect in just the last couple of years with an increasing number of artists and former veterans coming together as in the recent critically acclaimed production of John DiFusco's all-star veteran cast of 'Tracers' and his reflections on the 'Tracers' journey in his 'The Long Way Home.' A stage in the AMVETS building allows actors, directors, playwrights to mount pieces in its intimate space. Visual artists have also recently had their work shown professionally through a partnering with The Soldiers Project. Fine artists have enjoyed several exhibitions. Film and writing programs are available and as more veterans and artists discover USVAA, the effect is widespread and immediate.

Benefits are immeasurable for soldiers and the arts community in general as many veterans utilize their experience, discipline and training in both the creative and the application of their interests. Although USVAA does not offer onsite psychological treatment for those struggling with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), Jeffreys can see the positive effects of veterans channeling their personal experiences into the arts, both aesthetically and therapeutically. Giving former soldiers, now turned artists, the ability to nurture, hone and apply their craft for the public validates their patriotism as well as their talents by providing an outlet to show their trade.

There is no exclusionary restriction for those interested in becoming a part of USVAA other than being a veteran, but arts organizations, agencies and venues such as galleries are becoming more aware of the need to include our servicemen and women into the creative dialogue. For those returning home, USVAA provides a safe haven to ensure the further development of artists while recognizing the specific needs and care for veterans.

Veteran's Day comes once a year, but USVAA is making a concerted effort recognizing veterans year round through the arts. There are those who think of artists as unsung heroes and in the case of our veterans and USVAA, they are true heroes who are lifting their voices and it is our responsibility to make sure our veterans/artists are heard.

For more information please visit USVAA website: 

Know a veteran interested in the arts? Contact: USVAA
Keith Jeffreys
Executive Director
10858 Culver Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90230
(310) 559-2116


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