Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Returning to Art

Military Vets’ Artistic Endeavors



Drawing on the Past by Rod Whitehead.

Imagine returning from a Middle East war zone. How do you cope? For many veterans, art has been the answer. Painting, photography, music, dance, theater—a creative outlet can be healing. One organization that helps them explore that is the Veteran Artist Program, or VAP. 

Founded in 2009 by BR McDonald, an opera singer with his own military career, this non-profit organization promotes veterans and their work by networking, mentorship and collaborative productions. VAP is actively growing nationwide. 

Rod Frantz, who lives in Black Rock, is the program director of the Connecticut chapter. With a long history in the arts and philanthropy, his goal is to showcase these highly skilled individuals and get them connected. “These artists are not finger painters,” says Frantz. “We’re the only people working statewide in Connecticut and trying to achieve full reintegration through artistic abilities.”

In mid-November, VAP put on a show at the The Main Stage in New Haven with Chris Frantz and Tina Weymouth of Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club hosting the affair. VAP plans to tour the theater and dance troops with complimentary fine arts exhibits in 2016.

Ron Whitehead, who spent much of his Army career in Desert Storm in the early 90s, works with paint and photography focused on patriotic images. He found VAP through social media. “It’s really something special about being in a show with other vets,” he explains. “It’s a way to share with each other and it’s a great group that really supports vets.” (On left is his Broken Spirit art and his Drawing on the Past is above.)

Creating art can be satisfying but it often soothes a tortured soul. Artists like Edward Santos, an Army sergeant and team leader, came home from two tours in Iraq. He also returned with various bodily injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Santos described PTSD like being on a roller coaster. 

“The higher you get, the more anxiety. Your heart starts pounding,” he explains. “Your mind is traveling a hundred miles an hour. Totally depressed and angry one minute, calm the next. It’s like that all day, a continuous loop. Art is the only thing that helps me cope.”

Santos started with oil painting, but then he got hooked on what’s called “mobile photography.” Got an iPhone 6 Plus? So does he, and he takes phenomenal shots with it. After sending them to a California studio to be printed on metal, glass, or canvas, he then manipulates the images. (His images on the right and at the top.)

“With oil painting, I was isolated and inside my head,” he says. “Mobile photography gets me outside to meet and talk to people. Art is my happy place.”

While Santos became an artist after his service, Roman Baca was a dancer first. What began with jazz and tap lead to ballet. As the Artistic Director, he now runs Exit 12 Dance Company in New York City and the Ballet Theatre Company in West Hartford. Baca’s military service was a calling to help other people—like a hiccup in his dance career.

“There were times in the Marines that I saw dance as frivolous,” he remarks of his eight years as a machine gunner and fire team leader. “When I got back from Iraq, reality hit hard.”

Baca admitted his transition to civilian life was less than smooth. His wife told him he was anxious, angry, and sometimes mean. He knew something had to change. That was the birth of his dance company and he hasn’t looked back since. His veteran-based pieces are all aimed at advocacy and awareness. “You can say so much through movement without saying a word,” he says. 

Michelle Thomas, who spent 21 years in the National Air Guard and retired in 2010, has a slightly different view of art in her life. It’s not so much a happy place as a state of mind. “Art is the fabric of my being,” she shares. “I can’t go to sleep at night without working something out visually. It’s a part of how I think. It’s like breathing.” Thomas, who considers herself a mixed media artist, has been working with VAP for about two years. 

For Lynn Fisher, one of the first women enlisted in the Navy in the late 70s, her photography started in the military and continued after her service. She got connected with VAP three years ago after a show in Hartford. “Art-wise, everyone has a different flavor,” she says. “Some are angry, some working through painful experiences, and some are just doing art to create.”

To learn more, visit veteranartistprogram.org or contact Rod Frantz at rod@vapinct.org.

Additional Edward Santos Mobile Photography:

Add your comment:

Connect With Us

               

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Catch the Vibe Newsletter

See this weekend's events in the area!
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Archive »Related Content

Fairfield Pets Rock!

Pet Photo Contest––Deadline Sept. 20

World Fashion

Buying for good: local store sells beautiful items by fair trade artisans

Party on the Go

A purse that dispenses wine!

Fairfield Out & About - Sept/Oct

2017

20 Years of Local Art

Pequot Library’s Annual Art Show––Oct 14-22

Profiles

Your Guides to Leading Local Professionals

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Edit ModuleShow Tags

September 2017

“Over Here: Norwalk in the First World War” is a bus tour that will visit the homes, monuments, and memorials that tell the story of Norwalk during the Great War and its participation...

Cost: $60-70

Where:
Wall Street Theater
71 Wall Street
Norwalk, CT  06850
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Preservation Trust
Telephone: (203) 853-7495
Contact Name: Georgette Blau
Website »

More information

The Brennan Center for Justice Voter Rights and Elections team will address preserving the right to vote for every eligible citizen. The facts of voter access, voter suppression, voter fraud...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Build your child’s inner artist through the art of clay.  In today’s technology driven world children are rediscovering the proven transformational qualities of working with clay....

Cost: Free

Where:
Clay Art Center
40 Beech Street
Port Chester, NY  10573
View map »


Website »

More information

Over 20 farms and food producers will have everything you need for beach picnics, Sunday dinner, even your weekly shopping. Five CT farms, including Fairfield’s own Little River Farm,...

Cost: Free admission.

Where:
Sherman Green
1451 Post Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Nikon Small World  exhibition runs July 29 - October 29, 2017 at Bruce Museum This exhibit showcases the top 20 award-winning photographs of the 42nd annual Nikon Small World...

Cost: $10 adult,$8 senior/student, under 5 and member free. Free on Tuesdays to all

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

NPR Music wrote of the musician and Grammy winning producer, “Son Little doesn't strive to reproduce his influences; he recombines them into something new.” And on New Magic, his...

Cost: $25 Standard Members Save: $3/ticket

Where:
FTC StageOne
70 Sanford St
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Telephone: 120-325-91036
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

Nikon Small World  exhibition runs July 29 - October 29, 2017 at Bruce Museum This exhibit showcases the top 20 award-winning photographs of the 42nd annual Nikon Small World...

Cost: $10 adult,$8 senior/student, under 5 and member free. Free on Tuesdays to all

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Nikon Small World  exhibition runs July 29 - October 29, 2017 at Bruce Museum This exhibit showcases the top 20 award-winning photographs of the 42nd annual Nikon Small World...

Cost: $10 adult,$8 senior/student, under 5 and member free. Free on Tuesdays to all

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Website »

More information

The Rodgers & Hammerstein classic that changed American musicals forever dawns at Goodspeed for the very first time. Cowboy Curly and farm girl Laurey are taking their sweet time falling in...

Cost: $28-$80

Where:
Goodspeed Opera House
6 Main Street
East Haddam, CT  06423
View map »


Sponsor: Goodspeed Musicals
Telephone: 860-873-8668
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Ages 8-12 Staff Instructor Menu:  Created from a “Mystery Basket” which will include a protein, vegetable, starch, fruit, and of course … Chocolate! Class...

Cost: $50.00 per person

Where:
the Silo
44 Upland Road
New Milford, CT  06776
View map »


Sponsor: The Silo
Telephone: 860-355-0300
Contact Name: kim Prange
Website »

More information

Nikon Small World  exhibition runs July 29 - October 29, 2017 at Bruce Museum This exhibit showcases the top 20 award-winning photographs of the 42nd annual Nikon Small World...

Cost: $10 adult,$8 senior/student, under 5 and member free. Free on Tuesdays to all

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Website »

More information

The 2017 Progressive® Insurance Norwalk Boat Show®, the Northeast’s premier in-water boating event, docks at Norwalk Cove Marina September 21-24, 2017, offering water lovers an...

Cost: $15 for Adults, Free for Kids Under 15

Where:
Norwalk Cove Marina
48 Calf Pasture Beach Road
Norwalk, CT  06850
View map »


Website »

More information

The Rodgers & Hammerstein classic that changed American musicals forever dawns at Goodspeed for the very first time. Cowboy Curly and farm girl Laurey are taking their sweet time falling in...

Cost: $28-$80

Where:
Goodspeed Opera House
6 Main Street
East Haddam, CT  06423
View map »


Sponsor: Goodspeed Musicals
Telephone: 860-873-8668
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Friday, Sept. 22nd 5:00-8:00pm Free Admission FTC Parking Lot and The Warehouse   Let's say goodbye to summer in style!  Live Music by Tony Sarno Band Cool BMW's ...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Warehouse FTC
70 Sanford St
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Telephone: 120-325-91036
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

Johnny A. has one of the most eloquent voices in modern music - and he doesn't sing a note. Instead, he channels joy, love, humor, sadness... every aspect of the human experience, through his...

Cost: $32 Standard Members Save: $3/ticket

Where:
FTC StageOne
70 Sanford St
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Telephone: 120-325-91036
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

Nikon Small World  exhibition runs July 29 - October 29, 2017 at Bruce Museum This exhibit showcases the top 20 award-winning photographs of the 42nd annual Nikon Small World...

Cost: $10 adult,$8 senior/student, under 5 and member free. Free on Tuesdays to all

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Drive
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Website »

More information

The 2017 Progressive® Insurance Norwalk Boat Show®, the Northeast’s premier in-water boating event, docks at Norwalk Cove Marina September 21-24, 2017, offering water lovers an...

Cost: $15 for Adults, Free for Kids Under 15

Where:
Norwalk Cove Marina
48 Calf Pasture Beach Road
Norwalk, CT  06850
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Homes for the Brave will host the 3rd Annual Step Up For The Brave Stadium Stair Climb Challenge at the Ballpark at Harbor Yard on Saturday, September 23, 2017. This fun and challenging event will...

Cost: Early Bird registration: $25 General registration: $35 Student: $20

Where:
Ballpark at Harbor Yard
500 Main Street
Bridgeport, CT  06604
View map »


Sponsor: ABRI/Homes for the Brave
Telephone: 203-338-0669
Contact Name: Kathy Beardsworth
Website »

More information

TROPHIES Awarded to the top 3 Male and top 3 Female in each age group * PRIZES for Top Male and Top Female Overall * CHIP-TIMING of both the 5K and the 1-Mile * T-SHIRT, Race...

Cost: $35/$20

Where:
Jennings Beach
880 S Benson road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Only You Foundation
Telephone: 203-292-6601
Contact Name: Kelly Fedak
Website »

More information

Step Up for the Brave – Stadium Stair Climb Challenge is a unique, vertical challenge where participants are encouraged to conquer climbing a target number of stairs in honor of our...

Cost: Early Bird registration: $25 General registration: $35 Student: $20

Where:
Ballpark at Harbor Yard Home of the Bridgeport Bluefish
500 Main St
Bridgeport, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Saturday September 23, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Join Joe Brandt from The CT/Westchester Mycological Association for a fascinating walk through our woodlands as you look for fascinating mushrooms....

Cost: FREE

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
View map »


Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

More information

Can we fix it? Yes we can! Every child can be a builder, an engineer, a baker, or a dressmaker at the new Mega Making exhibit. Using real materials and real tools, young makers...

Cost: $10-$15

Where:
Stepping Stones Museum
303 West Avenue
Norwalk, CT
View map »


Sponsor: Stepping Stones Museum for Children
Telephone: 203-899-0606
Website »

More information

Free Music for Youth Free Young Persons’ Concerts Series at Pequot Library kicks off their season with Samuel Suggs, double bass Saturday, September 23rd, 2017 at 2pm
 Pequot Library,...

Cost: FREE (Kids aged 12 and under)

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Music for Youth
Telephone: 203-254-0123
Contact Name: Misty Beyer
Website »

More information

It would be difficult for any music fan to not be aware of the Sixto Rodriguez story at this point. While Rodriguez always enjoyed a respectable if impressive following in Australia and South...

Cost: $55-$85 Members Save: $5-$8/ticket

Where:
The Klein Memorial Auditorium
910 Fairfield Ave
Bridgeport, CT  06605
View map »


Telephone: 120-325-91036
Contact Name: Box Office
Website »

More information

The 2017 Progressive® Insurance Norwalk Boat Show®, the Northeast’s premier in-water boating event, docks at Norwalk Cove Marina September 21-24, 2017, offering water lovers an...

Cost: $15 for Adults, Free for Kids Under 15

Where:
Norwalk Cove Marina
48 Calf Pasture Beach Road
Norwalk, CT  06850
View map »


Website »

More information

The Rodgers & Hammerstein classic that changed American musicals forever dawns at Goodspeed for the very first time. Cowboy Curly and farm girl Laurey are taking their sweet time falling in...

Cost: $28-$80

Where:
Goodspeed Opera House
6 Main Street
East Haddam, CT  06423
View map »


Sponsor: Goodspeed Musicals
Telephone: 860-873-8668
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags