While veterans have made art about their military experiences for centuries, the growing number of veteran artists and writers now building communities to encourage, share and improve their work is a new phenomenon, an emerging movement.
Veteran artists around the U.S. have been making work that challenges stereotypes, politics and media portrayals. They are addressing militarism and extra-legal detention, raising questions of sexism and race in the military, and complicating the way our public views veterans.
The time is right for a veterans art movement. Interestingly, the milieu of hero worship and veterans care organizations is now situated opposite of what Vietnam veterans returned to not long ago: a society in bitter denial. Today, veterans are often thanked for their service, but many are unsure how to respond; it's a conversation stopper. Unfortunately, both cultures--the overzealous and the hostile--make it difficult for veterans to speak honestly, leading veterans towards alienation and, in turn, weakening our communities. As the U.S. marches on in perpetual warfare, veterans find themselves in a unique position to comment on and challenge the status quo.
Over the past decade, national communities and collectives of veteran artists have emerged, including Combat Paper, Warrior Writers and The Dirty Canteen. While the message these groups collectively intend to amplify is nascent, one commonality exists: all encourage veterans to speak up, to not become one of those "who never talked about it." Healthy communities hear the voices of all members--and with problems like climate change, dysfunctional governments, and the refugee crisis in the Middle East, we need strong communities now more than ever.
As the Veterans Art Movement grows, Frontline Arts intends to be a hub for dialogue and artistic action, to help strengthen our communities for the challenges of the future.