Center Stage: Creative Expression in Military Health

DRJNJeremy Nobel MD, MPH, Founder and President of the Foundation for Art & Healing, served as a presenter at the 2016 conference for the Americans for the Arts (AFTA) in Boston.  For nearly 60 years, Americans for the Arts, the nation’s  premier arts advocacy group, has convened an annual convention for over 1,000 arts and community leaders to network and discuss strategies for building stronger towns, counties, and cities through the arts.

At the conference, Dr. Nobel participated in an in-depth panel discussion, on how arts advocacy can expand the conversation of Military/Veterans Health and Wellness issues into the larger arts community.

As a group this collective think tank touched upon issues of community development, diversity/equity, engagement, evaluation, leadership, and public value.

When asked about specific ways that the arts can help address veterans’ health and well-being issues, Dr. Nobel replied, “One of the biggest burdens faced by individuals, including many returning to civilian life after military service, is loneliness and isolation. One of the unique characteristics of the arts are their ability to engage and connect us. Consequently community-based arts activities of various sorts—theater, dance, visual arts and expressive writing—work as an important ‘antidote’ to loneliness and isolation.  This is significant and timely from both a humanistic and public health perspective.”

As this panel so well demonstrated, there are many activities currently underway for veterans, many of which show great promise. A growing network of local arts agencies and other community based arts organizations see these types of activities as important ways to fulfill their mission.

“As the field moves forward to meet this need, it’s critical to work together to develop measurements and metrics that will allow us to design and deliver these programs most effectively and with the greatest benefit”, Dr. Nobel continued.  His comments reflect the importance of a systematic and evidence-informed way to bring the benefit of the arts to bear to address a variety of health and wellbeing issues for military service members, veterans, and their families.

Learn more about the Foundation’s signature initiative: The UnLoneliness Project

Other panelists included:

Michael Rohd, Director of the Center for Performance and Civic Practice,a national resource supporting artists and communities working together to build civic health, equity and capacity.

Jane Preston, Deputy Director of the New England Foundation for the Arts, a regional grantmaker and builder of creative partnerships among artists, arts organizations, and funders.

Nolen Bivens, President of Leader Six, who in addition to being an arts advocate and management consultant is also a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General, with over 32 years of military service.