Thursday, August 18, 2016

Creative Veterans Unite!

Coming up at the end of this month is an event celebrating our first exploration of adding Veteran Writers to our Distinguished Artist Veterans program. As those of you who have followed our veterans program knows, we have been hosting an annual exhibition of visual art every year since 2009. The exhibit is always a juried call for art, and brings us new and exciting artwork by veterans from all over the state of Texas. We have featured sculptures, paintings, drawings, jewelry, and so much more. But never writing until now! Our new project is called The Re-Integration Project and we started by hosting some writing classes for veterans in the Central Texas area. Over the course of two six-week long classes, a total of ten men and women learned about different writing styles including poetry, personal narrative, screenwriting, and fiction. The classes were taught by local writers Stephanie Whallon and Cecily Sailer. We also had an assistant from the Military Veteran Peer Network who helped us while also writing his own work. Below is a short excerpt from Gene Hooper’s story “S-13: A Day at Sea”

Nick wasn’t sure what was going on, but he knew that rumors onboard a ship travel fast. And he knew that if he wanted answers, he needed to move to his next watch station on the bridge. Maybe there is something to all of it, he thought, and he raced through the ship to the bridge.
When Nick entered the bridge, things were calm, so he reported to the officer of watch. Nick announced his presence with a strong deep tone. “Officer of the watch, Seaman Stone, reporting for duty. Permission to relieve the helmsman.” 
“Permission granted,” Lieutenant McDaniel responded. The deck watch was always uptight and very formal. Traditions, professionalism, and commutations were key components to keeping a ship out of harm’s way out at sea.
Nick took his place at the helm. The bridge was too quiet, the kind of quiet that speaks loudly. He felt as though everyone knew something but was afraid to tell him. He wasn’t sure what the hell was going on, but he already didn’t like it.

Gene Hooper writes fiction informed by his experiences as a veteran and his naval expertise. “S-13” is his first story, which sheds light on some of his core values. Being new to writing, Gene has spent time with great educators through VSA Texas’ veteran writing projects and learned new writing skills. He will continue writing and building his skill set. Gene also works with veterans with PTSD. He believes in the healing power of writing, and believes it can provide encouragement. Gene’s full story can be found in the chapbook that is being printed for the reading and art exhibit coming up on August 31st. We are partnering with the Aural Literature program of the Austin Public Library and featuring a reading of literary works by our veteran writers as well as displaying artwork by veteran artists from all over the state in our 7th Annual Distinguished Artist Veterans exhibit.
© 2016 Alec Carvalho, Wave in Birch, carved wood, 12” x 12”
We will have work on exhibit by 11 artists from all across the state including Laredo, Houston, San Antonio, and Austin. We asked the artists to relate their work to a theme that corresponded to the writings we received. For example, Alec’s piece Wave in Birch relates to the theme of Ownership of Experience and Life Choices.

Another artist who relates to that theme of Ownership of Experience is Ruth McIntosh. Ruth combined art and writing in her entry by framing a poem that is embedded into handmade paper created from the pulp of her old military uniforms. Her piece is called PTSD and she noticed something interesting about her finished work:

“I randomly tore the edges of the paper on which the poem is printed, however, unknowingly I created the outline of a face. The lines of the printing also just happened to suggest a face. This is amazing since the last two lines of the poem are, 'PTSD has many faces. One of them is mine.' It is as if I subconsciously made a self portrait.”
© 2015 Ruth L. McIntosh, PTSD,
Handmade paper and inkjet printing on paper, 16” x 20”
We invite you to see and hear from these veterans at our Re-Integration Project Reading and Opening Reception on Wednesday, August 31, 2016 from 7:00-8:30 PM at the Terrazas Branch Library, 1105 E. Cesar Chavez Street, Austin, TX 78702!

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