Through the Lens of Art: How Sharing Art Helps Veterans 

By Meghan E. Gattignolo 

For one month only, experience the stories and emotional journeys of local military veterans through their artwork on display at the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center. The Montgomery County Veterans Coalition, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Veterans Services, has organized a thought-provoking exhibit to help bring veterans’ stories of resilience and sacrifice to the awareness of the public. Each piece tells a unique story. 

According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, many medical facilities around the country use creative arts to help veterans recover from trauma. Organizations around the world have recognized the act of creating art for its ability to improve the quality of life of former military personnel as they battle disability, mental health issues and other destabilizing life obstacles. Creating and sharing art has several positive impacts on the lives of veterans. 

Expresses Emotion 

Life in the military means living under stress. Sometimes that stress is combat, but other times it’s not knowing what life will look like from one year to the next. Living away from family for months at a time, the physical pain of daily military life and the emotional demands of the work can all affect people in different ways. Leaving the military and reentering civilian life also brings up its own unique challenges. The visual arts give veterans a conduit to express the difficult emotions that can be hard to find the words for. Each veteran has their own story that no one else but them can tell, and few outside the military can truly understand.  

Flower Vase & Berry Vase
Sarah Lancia

Raises Awareness 

The struggles of former military personnel can be invisible. Soldiers are conditioned to show strength and hide weakness. Most people that veterans interact with are unaware of any inner turmoil. Creating art and putting it out there for the public to view gives others another perspective. The Montgomery County Veterans Coalition often hosts events like art shows for the purpose of educating and raising awareness about the mental and emotional struggles of veterans. Putting it out there makes it possible for the community to recognize those struggles and inspire more ways of contributing to the wellbeing of veterans.  

Consoles Other Veterans 

Nothing is more soothing than knowing you’re not alone. While many military veterans have found a voice and a way to work through their pain, others still suffer in silence. Even while living in a military town full of veterans, when you’re in a dark place, it’s easy to believe no one will understand what you’re going through. The chance to view the art and stories of veterans makes it possible for all veterans in the Clarksville community to connect with what others have gone through. Around the country, art shows, festivals and competitions help veterans share stories and make connections. The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival is one, which is held annually and gives veterans around the country a platform for their art and connecting with others. 

The Montgomery County Veterans Coalition is a non-profit organization that focuses on supporting the local veteran community in a variety of ways. MCVC hosts events and provides online material to educate the community about veterans, collaborate with other institutions to create opportunities for veterans and connect veterans with needed resources. The MCVC has been a shining force in the Clarksville community since its founding in 2014.  

The Tennessee Department of Veterans Services is a department of the state government that helps veterans by providing needed services, links to benefit information, connecting with educational opportunities and helping to find employment. 

Don’t miss the Veterans Coalition Community Art Show at the Customs House Museum & Cultural Center, downstairs in Memory Lane, from now until April 7!  

Meghan E. Gattignolo is a freelance writer and longtime Clarksville, TN resident. She loves to obsess about historical subjects and annoy her family daily with unsolicited random facts. Meghan holds a History B.A. from Austin Peay State University and lives in town with her husband and two daughters. 

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