21 May 2014

8 Ways You Can Support the Work of Artist-Veterans

From the Military Experience and the Arts on-line art gallery.
In a recent post on the Red Bull Rising blog, I described my recent acquisition of some original work drawn by Aaron Provost, an artist who happens to be a veteran. He's a working freelance illustrator, and I particularly like his military-themed stuff.

The visual arts are another way that veterans can help share stories, and bridge the civil-military divide.

When I boasted on-line about my new pencil drawing of an MRAP truck, I also asked others for their ideas on how else to help artist-veterans pursue their professions and their passions. Here's a start of a growing list of techniques, complete with examples:

1. Take artist-veterans seriously as artists. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: "Writing can be therapeutic, but it sure as heck ain't therapy." I think the same applies to the visual and other expressive arts. Yes, there are people doing great and healing art-therapy work in hospitals. And you can (and should) help support these efforts with your time, talent, and money. Don't assume, however, that every artist who happens to be a military veteran is somehow in need of healing, or is "just a hobbyist," or is limited in artistic vision, scope, or interest to expressing the experiences of war. Veterans have something to say, and it doesn't have to just be about the military.

2. Engage artist-veterans as artists first, veterans second. Travis Martin, founder of the non-profit organization Military Experience and the Arts, offers this suggestion: "Write reviews or informal reaction statements to show the veteran that they've seriously / critically examined his or her work and that they are willing to start a dialogue."That's great advice, and I plan to follow it. One caveat from Sherpa, however: "If you're face-to-face at an art show, however, don't monopolize an artist's time if you're not able to buy something yourself. Art-show time is money."

3. Feature the works of artist-veterans work in publications or websites. Previously reviewed on Red Bull Rising, The Pass In Review is a recently launched quarterly print and on-line journal that presents visual art in full-color glory, as well as fiction and poetry. The sophomore issue will soon be available for sale on-line, and it's pretty awesome. (Full disclosure: I'm a contributor.) In another example, Martin recently posted a virtual gallery of all the artwork featured in his organization's four on-line journals since 2012. Another caveat to would-be promoters, however: Make sure you first acquire copyrights and permissions from artists. When you can, try to pay them, even if it's just a token fee or honorarium.

4. Even if you're not a practitioner or publisher yourself, network with artists as a patron. In addition to the Facebook page of Martin's Military Experience and the Arts, you can "meet" artist-veterans via the social media pages of Veterans Artist Program, the Arts and the Military, and others. Offer them advice, encouragement, feedback ... or to buy them a coffee sometime.

5. Attend gallery openings, traveling art shows, and museum exhibitions. Sometimes, all you have to do be a supporter is to see and be seen. Here's the type of event to seek out: On May 23rd, there will be a reception for artist-veteran Rob Bates of Bates Illustration. His work is being shown at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte's student union art gallery, May 15 to June 5, 2014. For more information, click here.

6. Create and participate in your local artist-veteran scene. Make spaces in which artist-veterans can meet, practice, and present their works. If you're in the Milwaukee area, contact the "Artful Warriors" at the Dryhootch coffee shop. Buy supplies for artist-veterans such as Denver's Curtis Bean, who are teaching art as therapy. Provide encouragement to artist-veterans, and engage other people about what's happening in veteran-generated art. In other words: Tell your friends.

7. Buy or commission artwork (or related merchandise) as an individual patron. More and more artists—from fine-art print-makers to web cartoonists, from woodworkers to sculptors—offer work for sale via on-line venues. Painter and mil-blogger Skip Rodhe, for example, recently wrote about establishing a sales-beachhead on Etsy. A group of artist-veterans in Maine banded together to set up an on-line arts and crafts shop. Original art too expensive? Provost uses an on-line fulfillment platform called Society6 to sell original art, prints and posters, coffee mugs, throw pillows, and more. The creator of the DoctrineMan!! web comic sells book-length collections via Amazon.com and coffee mugs via Zazzle. Art is like Justice Potter Stewart's quote about obscenity—I know it when I see it. And I think DoctrineMan!! certainly qualifies. (As art, I mean—not obscenity.)

8. Buy, commission, or recognize artwork by working within an organization. If you can't afford to buy art as an individual, perhaps you can work with your local library or museum foundation, veterans service organization, or other group to create opportunities to recognize and feature the work of artist-veterans. The Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, for example, recently recognized a charcoal self-portrait by Oklahoma native Sarah Rothschild with its Colonel John W. Thomason Jr. Award. The work is now housed at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, Virginia.

Semper art!

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