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     Connie Schrader’s Arts in Medicine class from UNCA is contributing arts in medicine initiatives with Veterans at the Charles George Veterans Hospital in Asheville, N.C. ­­­­­I was invited to Connie’s class to present work in Arts in Medicine, and on another occasion, witnessed the students creating their own arts in medicine projects that were offered to Veterans on four different occasions. Each student created a unique experience with art that they shared with the Vets in small groups.

     Witnessing the diversity of projects and ideas that these students created was inspiring. Students partnered  with each other while presenting their ideas for arts in medicine. On one occasion, I was invited to participate with the students at the VA. I presented a story cloth, which was a platform for Vets to share their stories, hear the voices of students, and receive gratitude for sharing their stories and moments with us.

     Working with the Veterans reminds me of “why” this work is so important. Working in community with art processes, gives meaning to art, and provides a moment to slow down and listen to another human being’s story. This is important work. Mary Ellen Phillips, poet, wrote the following poem from the words that were shared by the Veterans:

He spoke from his wheelchair.

He said, they called us baby killers,

Because the children were all there

playing when the land mine went off.

Courage is because people will call you names.

I was 19.

I was just a kid.

Then I came home and they all turned

Their backs on us.

 

He said, though he could only

Speak with a slur,

“we are all veterans”…

And that courage means to learn

Each other’s names.

Courage means to keep moving forward

Even though you’re afraid.

Even if you want to turn back.

There is no going back.

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VA Connie's Class 1