Veterans
Artist Feature

Wed, Nov 11, 2020

Jamie Keil

Jamie Keil - Learning & Engagement Manager

Community Spotlight: Veterans Art Program

Occurring on November 11th every year Veterans Day recognizes those who have served in the U.S. military. In honor of the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918 that signaled the end of World War I, Veterans Day gives Americans the opportunity to celebrate the bravery and sacrifice of all U.S. veterans.

Here in Santa Cruz County, we have a host of programs that benefit and serve local veterans. One of those programs is called the Veterans Art Program. This free program offers art-making workshops and hands-on projects for veterans to learn new skills, connect, and showcase their artwork in the community.

Artdrawing

“To me, and a lot of other veterans, art has been a powerful tool for healing, self-expression, processing experiences, and connecting with others.”

Travis Deyoung

I hope this Veterans Day you take a moment to think about and honor our veterans in a way that feels special to you. And if you can, share this program with anyone in your life that you think might benefit from it.

Below we've interviewed the founder of the Santa Cruz Veterans Art Program, Travis Deyoung. Read along as he shares more about the program itself, his personal Veterans Day celebrations, and how he has so beautifully combined advocacy, art, and community care.

What does Veterans Day mean to you?

Travis: Veterans Day is a time to reflect upon the service and sacrifice of all veterans. I have worked with many veterans over the past five years and I know that veterans make sacrifices in many ways. These sacrifices range from being forced to spend time away from family and friends, sustaining physical and mental injuries, bearing witness to horrific events, and even giving their lives in service to this country.

When a person enlists in the military, they set aside their own will and offer themselves completely to ensure the continued freedom of our country. Freedom comes at a great cost and Veterans Day is an opportunity to show our gratitude to those who have paid the price.

Iraq2009

Travis served four years in the Marine Corps (2007-2011) as an aviation supply specialist and deployed to Iraq for 11 months. He has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and is currently working for the County of Santa Cruz as the Veteran Advocate.

How do you honor Veterans Day?

Travis: I honor Veterans Day by showing gratitude to those who have served. I do this by thanking veterans for their service, offering a prayer on their behalf, and taking a moment to acknowledge all that has been given by our veterans.

On Veterans Day, I reach out to the veterans I know. I thank them for their service and offer my support for any challenges they may be facing.

How can art be a useful tool for veterans?

Travis: Art allows us to uncover parts of ourselves that have been either hidden or suppressed throughout our lives. Military service often requires the suppression of emotions to stay focused on the mission. Emotional suppression is helpful while serving in the military but can lead to a lot of challenges when it comes to our relationship with ourselves and others.

Through practicing art, I have learned a great deal about the person I am and the person I want to be. I have discovered parts of myself that I didn’t know existed and have created confidence in my ability to express myself.

Veterans can process challenging emotions and experiences by using art as an alternative means of communication. Some memories may be too challenging to talk about, but art can offer a way to process and let go of the negative feelings tied to those experiences. I think it is important to recognize that although art has many therapeutic qualities, it is not the same thing as therapy. I wrote a post on the Santa Cruz Veterans Art blog exploring the difference.

One of the largest benefits I have experienced from art is the connection with others. I developed several meaningful relationships with other veterans and artists by sharing my art. When we share our art, we offer others insight into our perspective and create an opportunity to connect on a deeper level.

Travis and Michael

Travis and Michael Montfort, a Vietnam Veteran. One of the veterans who has been very involved in the art program.

Can you share more about the Veterans Art Program?

Travis: The Veterans Art Program has evolved over the past three years. In the first couple of years, I hosted several events that showcased the work of veteran artists. In the beginning of 2020, I concentrated my efforts into creating a robust art program with consistent events. I had planned more than ten events including a drawing class, ceramics workshop, photography class, poetry group, and more. These events were set to kick off in April of this year (& some of the classes were set to happen at the MAH).

Unfortunately, the onset of COVID 19 interfered and these events were cancelled. Disappointed but not disheartened, I started meeting regularly with a good friend and veteran artist, Will Kraintz. We started to come up with virtual events and continued to build the art program. We hosted a virtual gallery and are currently holding a bimonthly art collaborative meeting open to all veterans, family, and friends.

All are welcomed to join the virtual art meeting on the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at 3pm. For more information on this meeting please email scveteranart@gmail.com.

What's one way the community can better support our local veterans?

Travis: There are many great programs and benefits for veterans in our community. Sadly, many veterans are unaware or do not take advantage of these benefits. One thing everyone can do is to encourage the veterans in their lives to connect with their local Veterans Services Office.

The Santa Cruz County Veteran Services Office is fully staffed and even though the office is closed to the public due to COVID 19, they are still working with veterans. They can be reached at 831 454 7276.

Veterans 1

Picture taken by Will Kraintz of Michael Montfort playing one of his hand-built ceramic drums.

Anything else you want to share?

Travis: I would just like to end on a note of gratitude for the supportive veteran community here in Santa Cruz County and the many service providers dedicated to helping our local veterans.

One of my favorite veteran organizations in Santa Cruz is Vets 4 Vets Santa Cruz. Vets 4 Vets is an all-volunteer non-profit made up of veterans and friends dedicated to serving local veterans and building community. You can check them out and the work they are doing at www.Vets4VetsSantaCruz.org.

Thank you for reading and have a safe and happy Veterans Day.