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The Creative Forces Community Engagement grant supports the AFJ veteran’s art programs and has allowed us to expand our services beyond working with veterans living with PTSD, to veterans living with sight impairment, and add a new program focusing on female veterans, all having served our country.

A recent art session was led by award winning clay artist Kay Franz for sight impaired veterans that included meditation as a part of the experience. Veterans experienced working with clay and creating hand build bowls as well as experiencing this form of art. One veteran explained how much they enjoyed the meditative part of the experience as artist and certified yoga instructor Kay led the session. Kay began with helping veterans notice through the senses the feel of the clay with calming breathing, and feeling the connection of the material to the earth through our feet, ourselves, and our inner spiritual creative being.

This grant program aims to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for military service members.

Melba Gibbs directs the AFJ veteran’s program. She is the former Executive Director of Freedom House, a non-profit focusing on housing for homeless veterans. Melba brings her heart to the Art for the Journey veteran’s programs because as she has explained from her depth of experience, “People may not remember what you do or what you say, but they will remember how you make them feel. It’s an honor to serve those who have given their time and their talent and thier abilities so that we can live in this country in freedom.”

Art for the Journey is grateful to Dr. Clay Mountcastle, CEO of the Virginia War Memorial who has helped make Art for the Journey veteran’s programs possible with art experiences held regularly in the newly expanded and spectacular new wing of the War Memorial building.

The Creative forces Community Engagement Grant is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in partnership with Mid-America Arts Alliance (M-AAA). This grant program aims to improve the health, well-being, and quality of life for military service members and veterans exposed to trauma as well as their families and caregivers through experiences of art or art making.

For 2022/2023 26 grants were awarded to organizations across the country. Art for the Journey is very grateful to the National Endowment for the Arts, the Mid-Atlantic Arts Alliance and the Creative Forces organization to have been chosen to receive funding for our services. We are honored to steward these funds to help veterans experience well-being through art, creative expression, and community volunteer engagement.

Volunteers pictured: Artist leader Kay Franz, Board member Beverly Perdue Jennings, Dionne McBride from Village Bank, staff from Hunter Holmes McGuire, Melba Gibbs, Program Director and Cindy Paullin, Executive Director - AFJ