09 July 2012

On Page and Stage, Event Explores Mil-service

More than 100 military veterans, artists, and community organizers participated in the inaugural "Military Experience and the Arts Symposium" on the Richmond, Kent. campus of Eastern Kentucky University, July 5 to 7, 2012. During the three-day conference, participants engaged in workshops, performances, and demonstrations regarding the communication and interpretation of experiences on the page and on the stage.

Highlights from the symposium included:
  • A performance by Exit 12 Dance Company, New York City. After exploring stark themes of identity and homecoming on an oppressively hot summer stage, company co-founder and Iraq war veteran Roman Baca lightened the mood in taking questions from the audience. One anecdote: "On my last day of [Marine] Boot Camp, I handed my drill instructor a manilla envelope with glossy pictures of me, from my last photo shoot as a dancer. I was wearing tights, and posing with a ballerina wearing a tutu." Baca has since returned to Iraq, conducting dance workshops with children there.
  • "Snapshot: A True Story of War Interrupted by Invasion," a one-woman play written and performed by Carmen Mitzi Sinnott. Relating her family's military experiences, Sinnott explores issues of racial and family identity, homelessness and homecoming. Her estranged father was diagnosed with schizophrenia following his service in Vietnam, and it took decades between Kentucky and Hawaii for Sinnott to track him down.
  • Release of the second issue of The Journal of Military Experience, a publication that presents veterans' words and works in poetry, prose, and the visual arts, along with scholarly articles comprising literary analysis, arts education, and veterans topics. The publication was founded in part by Travis Martin, while pursuing a graduate degree in English at EKU. Martin has continued his veterans activism as a doctoral student at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kent.
  • A reading by Emma Rainey, founder of "Writing My Way Back Home." In remarks introducing Rainey, Travis Martin credited Rainey's previous efforts at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa as inspiration for the symposium at EKU.
Approximately 1,000 of the more than 16,000 students currently enrolled at EKU are veterans or military dependents. "This university strives to be more than 'veteran-friendly.' We strive to be 'veteran-helpful,'" says EKU Director of Admissions Brett Morris, a retired U.S. Army officer who returned to the campus after once teaching R.O.T.C. there a decade earlier.

In addition to "military-friendly" ratings from various magazines, EKY administrators point to other campus innovations such as "Operation Veterans Success" and an 18-hour Veterans Studies multidisciplinary minor.

Veterans attending the 2012 Military Experience and the Arts Symposium were provided free lodging and meals.

The Stars and Stripes newspaper republished a local account of the symposium here.

For continued news regarding either the Military Experience and the Arts Symposium, or The Journal of Military Experience, click here.

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