Veterans returning from military service often face challenges reintegrating into civilian life that can result in social isolation. Vets Engaged, a Veterans, Seniors and Human Services Levy program, seeks to reduce social isolation among veterans by funding programs that cultivate a sense of belonging amongst veterans, helping to bridge the “civilian-military divide” between veterans, servicemembers and the general population.
In 2020, one organization funded under Vets Engaged, Path with Art, launched a year-long offering of arts programming tailored for veteran participants. Called Boots in the Arts, the program seeks to harness the power of creative engagement as a bridge to community and a path to stability.
Boots in the Arts
Path with Art’s programming offered veterans a variety of opportunities to build community with each other. Veterans worked alongside accomplished teaching artists and participated in activities which included:
- a 24-week writing course through the Red Badge Project, taught by Warren Ethridge
- a Veterans Choir collaboration with the Seattle Opera directed by Liz Frazer, Malex Reed, and Shelly Irvin
- a calmness and balance workshop
- a movement workshop
- Path with Art social hours
- art classes ‘Intro to Wood Turned Art’ and ‘Creating with Clay’ and
- a 6-week class on Masked Fashion taught by teaching artist and veteran Jim Corey
All programs were held successfully online. Path with Art and their teaching artists adapted their instruction styles and materials to accommodate the challenging and necessary changes, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, to make distance learning not only possible but valuable and affirming for the veterans participating. Portions of the Masked Fashion classes took place in-person with proper safety and social distancing rules to ensure everyone’s safety.
Path with Art also formed a Veteran Steering Committee to inform their veteran programming. Composed of veterans and community members who work with veterans, the Steering Committee focuses on developing strategies and tactics to reach low-income veterans and to provide veteran-only art engagement opportunities to support their path to recovery.
Vets Engaged seeks to provide community-building networks through social engagement opportunities that increase social connection for veterans and servicemembers and their respective families in King County.
The program awards mini grants of $9,999 for organizations to convene free community-building events and activities that can create, strengthen, and sustain social networks. Its goal is to reduce veterans’ sense of isolation by providing opportunities for veterans and their families to socialize with other veterans as well as non-veterans. Vets Engaged funded organizations can connect to the King County Veterans Program, a hub for veterans services in King County, providing access to additional resources and services for veterans.
Vets Engaged accepts applications on a rolling basis with two annual due dates. Applications are due on April 4th and on June 30th in 2021. Applications will be reviewed within 30 days of the application due dates.