American Arts Trust

The American Veterans Art Wall – The AVAW

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Our mission is to provide you – America's veterans – with a safe, secure, 
non-judgmental outlet to express your feelings through art.

Art provides a filter that makes it easier to deal with the memories and the emotions that theses memories trigger.

Sometimes what cannot be talked about can be danced, or sung, or rhymed, or woven.

To create a work of art is a statement of: "I AM."

To sign that work and post it is a statement of: "I HAVE WORTH"

To see the work of others, who have experienced what you have 
and recognize that they feel things as you do, is a statement of: "I AM NOT ALONE."

Being able to make these three statements: "I AM. I HAVE WORTH. I AM NOT ALONE" can change a life. Bring you from a place of isolation and darkness to a place of community and light. This is no magic pill, but the healing power of art is boundless. This is not new age mumbo jumbo. Before man spoke, before he formed tribes, before he contemplated a god – man created art – because art solves problems.


In the United States of American every 65 minutes a man or woman who volunteered to protect this nation -- takes their own life. That is 22 people a day, 154 people a week, 616 people a month, 7,392 people a year, every year. And experts say that figure is grossly under reported. This is a national crisis.

The cause in most cases is PTSD. The reaction in some to the trauma of war where the human body, brain and emotional system cannot process what it has experienced. It is not only the soldiers who are affected here, their families and communities and we as a nation are all victims.

The American Veterans Art Wall (The AVAW) will be a virtual wall where anyone who has served in the American Armed Forces can post any kind of artistic expression in any medium. A safe place where there will be no comments or critiques, or censorship. In addition, as we grow there is be a list of resources for veterans for getting help.

Our country owes an incalculable debt to those who have put their lives on the line to protect all Americans. Most of them have experienced things for which no one can ever be prepared. When they return home, they need a place to interact with others who share their experiences. Too often, unexpressed emotions can turn malignant — consuming not only the soldiers but also those they love (who cannot relate and cannot help). Using art as a filter to express emotions, on the other hand, can lead to profound creations that in turn can change lives.


Memorial Art Wall


Many excellent organizations already exist to help veterans: poetry writing groups, dance troupes, film groups, literary magazines. Each is excellent in its own way. The virtual wall is different because all expressions are welcome. We look forward to working with all interested veteran groups. We hope to support them and their work as we hope they will support us. Because we are using Google Open Gallery we can embed The AVAW into these organizations' websites and all of their work can be uploaded into The AVAW, thus increasing viewership.

Since the beginning of time, sailors and soldiers have told their stories — what they saw and experienced that could find no other expression but through folk art. Whether fighting because they believed in a cause, or were pressed into service, part of the experience is the forced loss of self for the good of the group’s cohesion. In uniform. It is just that...uniform. Humans are not by nature herd animals. A worker bee has no need to express who he is because he is no more than a...worker bee. However, man must express who he is on a very elemental level or he stops being MAN.

The terrible circumstances of war too often lead our service members to experience the inhuman. The military trains for this — the group dynamic requires it. Afterward, combatants are not retrained to once again function as individual humans. Often, they are expected to just “flip” a switch that doesn’t even exist.


Memorial Art Wall


They come home different, closed-off from society. It has nothing to do with the popularity of the war or simpler times; veterans returned from World War II and never spoke of those years, period. They could only talk with others who had “been there.”

In scrimshaws, knots, paintings on leather bomber jackets, tattoos, graffiti or carvings, ”I AM—I EXIST” cries out. I am human. I am an individual. I am a man. I am a woman.

The end of war usually brings prosperity to the “winner,” a bump in the birthrate and an explosion in art that takes us in a radically new direction. In almost all cases, this art centers on individual expression. World War I’s “lost generation” threw off the formality of the Victorian and Edwardian ages. They drank, smoked and lived as if there was no tomorrow. The 1920s ushered in a creative burst that was the response to repression of man’s individuality during the war. It was the end of the birthright class system. Anyone could make a million dollars and become a member of the 400 (or so they thought). The “how do I get my million” was a positive response, but the horrors that the boys suffered “over there,” the kind not spoken of, affected every single one of them…and those to whom they returned home.


Memorial Art Wall


Not being able to express what they had lived, what they felt and what they had seen made it impossible for many WWI and WWII veterans to ever really come home. PTSD? The very idea would have been laughed at in those years. Exercise, baths and/or “rest” were all that was offered. When war was over, those who were injured were expected to retreat into the shadows and trot out once a year for poppies. They had received a parade, after all. For the lucky few, art was the answer. It might not have brought them all the way back, but at least it gave them a means to express and to expunge parts of the experience.

It took 10 years to “percolate up” in Ernest Hemingway, but he was finally able to translate his wartime experience into his first novel, The Sun Also Rises. For him, salvation; for us, the modern American novel was born. Of course, not every returning veterans writes like Hemingway — but the need to express those feelings is no less. We must provide a place for each one to share…without a publisher’s approval, without an editor’s hand. Raw. Created for the artist, not the audience.


Memorial Art Wall


The Hollywood propaganda machine of the 1940s presented Technicolor fantasies of a romanticized American family in order to tell the boys what they were fighting for. It worked so well and sold so many war bonds, that Madison Avenue saw no reason for it to ever end. This “let’s pretend for the boys” became the basis of the simpler life pushed to the fore by Leave It To Beaver and Father Knows Best. No one wanted to try to fictionalize for consumption on the home front what it was like to have taken part in the fire bombing of Dresden. If a soldier had trouble readjusting, he was offered a lobotomy or shock treatment and a ticket to the “feel-good” movies. Those who created art railed against Technicolor’s happy endings with film noir’s murkier endings (read more about the GI Bill and those who took advantage of it to become artists Click to load a list of web sites on the GI Bill ).

The conflict in Korea was neither fish nor fowl; there was no massive national mobilization and sacrifice (we’d just been through that, after all). There were no parades when it was over; no acknowledgement at all of the sacrifices for a long time. Writer Larry Gelbart’s sardonic and brilliant wit allowed M*A*S*H to showcase what was felt but not expressed. Televised against the backdrop of real-time news feeds from Vietnam, America slowly came to grips with the fact that brightly waving flags and patriotism only served to obscure war’s madness with its overlay of bureaucratic rules. The show’s laughter allowed us to see — for the first time — the darker, long-lasting effects of war.


Memorial Art Wall


Vietnam served to show every US citizen that the “man behind the curtain” was a greedy economic machine that needed war. Seeing dead soldiers on the evening news was very different from Big Band singers crooning romantic ballads on the radio. The result was a generational and national divide that is yet to be fully healed. The soldier who came home from ‘Nam got the isolation of technology and drugs. Dinner with dad at the dining room table was officially dead.

The veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are not met with parades. Most cannot find jobs. This is so short-sighted of us as a country. The GI Bill gave rise to writers, artists and engineers and created the longest economic boom in history. Will contemporary soldiers be able to share in similar boom times? Not without a substantial change in the American mindset. Technological advances in the field and in medicine are sending more and more soldiers home, but this also means that so many more are coming back damaged We know that one of the best ways man declares “I AM” is through art. Sure, the Internet allows every writer to be published and every second of anybody’s day to be seen by millions now. However, it is highly unlikely that the healing our veterans need will be assuaged by building a Facebook page. The kind of art that heals these wounds requires much more. We do not claim that posting a piece of art is the cure for PTSD. It is not, think of it like field triage. But a step that can help a veteran shout “I AM” can help get that veteran ready to seek deeper forms of help. That is our purpose.


Memorial Art Wall


Twenty-two former military men and women kill themselves every day in this country. That is one suicide every 65 minutes, every day. 365 days of every year.
This is not a “serious” problem — this is an “urgent” problem. Artistic expression is a proven form of help. We owe each man and woman who put a life on the line for all of us. If we can save one life, we must. American Arts Trust asks you for your support to set up this virtual wall. We also encourage artists in all disciplines to offer their time to help a veteran who reaches out.

Please help us help them.