American Legion Auxiliary — February 2013
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A Wise Woman Said…
Elizabeth “Liz” Mackey


Serving as director of the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival is an honor that I never would have dreamed possible. It’s a tremendous privilege to be able to serve veterans who have served and sacrificed a part of their lives in support of our nation, our democracy, and our freedoms. Music and other creative arts therapies are unique ways to assist veterans with physical and mental health challenges and make a positive difference in their lives.

There are talented VA therapists working with veterans every day in clinical settings. It’s a privilege to serve with them and with the NVCAF steering committee that organizes and leads the creative arts competition at VA medical facilities throughout the country.

NVCAF is life-changing for so many veterans. The main purpose of the program is to provide veterans with a sense of pride and empowerment through recognition locally, and potentially, at the national level.

Recognition and acknowledgement of one’s creative accomplishments can be a source of great pride and motivation to face other life challenges. In 2013, the program will include a new category called “Healing Art” for active military personnel receiving care at military medical facilities. It’s an opportunity for our military men and women to share their use of the visual arts in the healing process toward rehabilitation and wellness.

There are so many ways people can become involved with creative arts programs at the VA facility closest to them. These include volunteering to help with the art exhibit set-up, assisting with the judging of entries, and providing refreshments during the art shows and performing arts presentations.

The National Veterans Creative Arts competition and festival programs have benefited greatly from the American Legion Auxiliary’s support, expanding the program and the opportunities for veterans participating. Funding provided by ALA has helped enhance the festival stage show by providing better staging, special effects, lighting, and audio that give the show a professional and unique look on TV.

With much assistance from the American Legion Auxiliary over the past 12 years, the VA’s creative arts program for veterans has increased to nearly 4,000 participating veterans from 130 VA facilities across the country. ALA support has also allowed more categories to be added to the visual arts division, making it possible for veterans to participate in more than 50 categories of art.

Mackey began her career as a music therapist in 1986. Her work with NVCAF began when she assisted veterans receiving care at the St. Cloud, Minn. VA medical facility to submit their music, dance and drama entries into the National Veterans Creative Arts competition. In 1993, Mackey served as the host site coordinator for the National Veterans Creative Arts competition and festival, and a year later served as the national art chairperson. She was named director of the NVCAF in 1995.
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