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Black History: Honoring service and creativity at Creative Arts Festival

As we celebrate Black History Month, we discover the rich tapestry of African American history that has shaped our diverse nation. 

This year’s theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” invites us to honor the artists who use their crafts to uplift, inspire and effect change. Their work demonstrates the resilience and creativity of the African American community and their stories are an integral part of our shared history. At VA, we recognize the powerful tool the arts can be throughout a Veteran’s journey toward physical and mental health.

In observance of Black History Month, VA’s National Veterans Sports Program and Special Events highlights some first-place Black Veteran artists who have shared their talent with our community through the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival. 

The artists

Gene Hollingsworth, Marine Corps Veteran, Des Moines VA

Artwork: A Queen

“I believe for me it’s really simple. It has always been in me to create. I have not always channeled it correctly. When I woke up from the darkness, I realized that there was something I had forgotten I could do. It was to create,” Hollingsworth said.

Natasha Mathisrud, Army Veteran, Indiana VA

Artwork: Eye on the Future

“To paint, color and draw creatively while moving through therapy makes me feel full of life,” Mathisrud said.

Angela Walker, Army Veteran, Edward Hines, Jr. VA

Angela Walker

“I enjoy sharing the creative arts with other Veterans. Sharing the arts brings out the best in me,” Walker shared.

Army Veteran Lesley Mose, Richmond VA  

Mose competed for the first time in the 2022 Creative Arts Festival and won gold for her crochet/knit artwork titled, “Wounded Warrior.” “Participating in the creative arts allows me to feel like I still have a way to contribute to society even when my mind feels scrambled or cluttered. It gives me a way to create and share with others and makes me feel happy and whole,” Mose said.

Robbie Wyatt, Army Veteran, Maryland VA

Mose won gold for her narrative, “The Arts Birthed the Army in Me.”  “I remembered my Army days going back as far as JROTC. These were my comrades. They would have my back and I felt safe. My military experience was birthed from the arts. Like parents who grow with their children, the arts grew with me,” Wyatt said.

Kevin Stuart, Army Veteran

Kevin Stuart

A multi-year performer representing Alexandria VA at the Creative Arts Festival, Stuart shares his award-winning poetry and compositions passionately on stage. “The value of the creative arts is immeasurable and worth the time to explore, participate and even observe the creativity, gifts and skills of our fellow comrades,” Stuart said.

Yearly culmination of creative arts competitions

The National Veterans Creative Arts Festival is a yearly culmination of creative arts competitions held at VA facilities across the country. The festival showcases Veteran artistry and the therapeutic benefits of art, music, dance, drama and creative writing.

VA and the American Legion Auxiliary present the event, which features workshops, a stage performance, writing exhibition and a gallery-style showcase of artwork.

The 2024 festival is hosted by VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System.

Learn more and follow @Sports4Vets on Facebook, Instagram and X. 

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