Beginning and sustaining work using the arts to serve veterans’ needs is an exercise in translation. While the need is great, it is also daunting to move into that space or grow existing programs to meet that need.
The insights that emerged from the Boots to Brushes session at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention is that many of these obstacles (and some of the solutions) are, at their core, an issue of translation.
Here are a few of those:
Because of the structure and culture of the military, partnerships are a foreign concept. For the most part, the military just takes what it wants. For the arts, collaboration and community are essential pieces of the process.
One insight that emerges for arts organizations interested in addressing veterans’ needs is being cognizant of how foreign the concept of partnerships is to the military.
To tackle the hurdle of getting a foot in the door with the Veterans Association, one key insight was to use the veterans that you’ve worked with in the past as your spokespeople.
It might be an unintentional consequence of doing good work and transforming someone’s life that s/he spreads the word about your organization; however, veterans themselves can be the best ambassadors into hard-to-crack groups.
Another challenge is how to help the corporate sector and the military understand each other in regards to the potential skill sets that military personnel and veterans bring to employers. Unemployment is a huge problem for vets returning from abroad.
A better understanding on the part of the private sector of the value that past military personnel might bring to their organization is key; as is a better understanding on the part of the military that cultivating more nuanced skills like creative problem-solving might help returning vets be competitive job seekers.
Although there are certainly obstacles to great translation between arts organizations, the military, veterans, and the private sector, because of the growing population of veterans that need support these challenges provide great opportunity for the arts to take a leadership role in this arena.