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VA Creative Arts Festival showcases veteran talent to community through today

Casey Hargis, VA photographer<br>First-place ribbon winner, “The Day the Point Blew Up.”
Courtesy Photo

Casey Hargis, VA photographer<br>First-place ribbon winner, “The Day the Point Blew Up.”


The 2016 National Creative Arts Festival at the VA, 500 Highway 89 in Prescott, Theater Building 15.

PRESCOTT - U.S. Marine veteran artist Carl Anderson won a first-place ribbon in the "Military Experience" category at the local VA's 2016 National Creative Art Festival exhibit for his three-dimensional creation that depicts a 1969 North Vietnamese ambush.

In his entry explanation for the exhibit unveiled Wednesday, Anderson dedicates his unique artistry to the Marines who were lost that fateful morning; the blue sky and jungle green backdrop suggesting tranquility against the bursts of bright yellow, red and orange of erupting bombs. In the center of the piece made out of felt or gauze-like material, one can discern the camouflaged soldiers he has posed in the act of warfare that day.

He titled the piece: "The Day The Point Blew Up."

Northern Arizona Veteran Affairs Health Care System has been a host of the annual veterans' art show for more than two decades. Recreation therapist and organizer Paula Moran said she is always awed by the talent of those who submit artwork, noting that many of these veteran artists are amateurs though their work is of professional quality. The participating veterans can be either patients who are hospitalized or in residential treatment programs on campus, or they can be outpatient veterans.

"This is beautiful," declared one veteran visitor who gave his name only as Stanley. "It was worth all the time it took me to find a parking place."

As he toured some of the elaborate woodwork, metal sculpture, including the first place-winning depiction of the Town of Jerome made completely out of bolts, screws and other scrap metal pieces by veteran artist Willem B. VanDerheyden, Stanley proclaimed to anyone around him who might listen: "Boy, I hate people like this - talented!"

A former U.S. Coast Guard photographer, Alice Sennott, said she is impressed to find that this local VA is so supportive of showcasing veteran artwork as she knows how important such expression is to one's emotional healing.

A pottery artist, Sennott said she just moved to the area and looks forward to participating in the exhibit in the future. She said she has found over the years that investing oneself in any artwork, be it collage, knitting, painting or sculpting a piece out of clay, is "very meditative."

"To see the VA support these kinds of programs is fantastic," Sennott said.

A year ago, two local veteran artists, Kent Robinson and Karen Renee Bull, were finalists in the national competition that was held in Durham, North Carolina, in October. This fall, the national competition will be held in Jackson, Mississippi.

"It's very nice," said Patty Brady of the exhibit. She and her husband, Tom, also a veteran, arrived soon after the festival opened. "It's a lot of fun to see other people's artwork. I see a lot of things I like."

Her husband was a particular fan of the leather work, including an intricately designed holster and book cover.

Veteran Solomon Letterman said this is the first time he's ever participated in the show, which had a mix of pieces that ranged from high-caliber to the simple. He won first place for a sea turtle picture he colored with crayons from a craft kit.

"It was something to do," Letterman said with a shrug.

A U.S. Army veteran, Doug Oldfield, won a first-place ribbon for his black-and-white photo of a meadow lark he saw digging up food in the "talcum-powder" like sands of the Galapagos Island he visited in September.

"There is a lot of variety here," Oldfield said of the juried show that is housed in Theater Building 15 and is open to the public through today, Feb. 19, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. The show will conclude with an awards ceremony for all of the winners in about 51 categories, including the People's Choice Award.

"They're all pretty good," said exhibit visitor Fred Nelson as he toured the displays. "I'm enjoying it."

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