Creative Services to Military Families


Music Programs for vets at the Hampton VA

The Hampton Roads community is rich in its history of service.  Many veterans call our neighborhoods and communities ‘home.’  We have had the honor to know and work with many fine musicians and artists who come from a military background.  Since 2005, many of these local, creative vets have partnered with Tidewater Arts Outreach (TAO) to share their love of music and the arts with military members receiving treatment at the Hampton VA Medical Center Domiciliary. 

The model we created for a Vet’s Drop-In Jam Session, works like this:

  1. Artists bring their guitars, basses, blues harmonicas, and percussion/other instruments.  They are asked to bring along at least one extra instrument for a vet to use.  Artists also are asked to bring 20 copies each of several classic rock, folk or R&B songs in their repertoire.  Tidewater Arts Outreach provides a PA, sheet music, hand drums and percussion instruments.
  2. We put all the music in stacks on a table. We get volunteers who are able to help us pass out sheet music.  We arrange chairs in two circles (a circle within a circle) and place instruments and artists strategically throughout the room.
  3. We set up a small PA for song leaders to take turns on. The first artist plugs in and announces his song.  Everyone grabs the sheet music, or an instrument, and proceeds to join in.  The songs are intentionally simple, with only a few chords.  Artists show vets chords, bass or lead lines to play, as desired.
  4. Many vets choose to sing; often they will group in the center in a tight circle and belt out the songs.
  5. If we are lucky enough to get blues harps and an instructor, these are handed out to a small group of interested players. The instructor spends time with this group throughout the session.  The blues harps are for participants to keep.

One participant commented:
It inspired me to play clarinet again after 36 years! I was thrilled to find I could still get a decent sound and even ad lib with the band. It was wonderful!” Another wrote: “You gave me so much more than you will ever know.”

On numerous program evaluation surveys, TAO receives enthusiastic feedback from participating veterans requesting the continuation of these healing and community-building music experiences.


Community Healing Arts Initiative (CHAI)

The Community Healing Arts Initiative is a 12-program series of participatory dramatic and visual arts activities for low-income military families at Cedar Grove Apartments (affordable, permanent, supportive rental housing built for homeless and/or disabled U.S. military veterans) in Virginia Beach.  We have conducted an eight-week Comedy Improv series and multi-session visual journaling and visual arts classes.  Vets have been introduced to topics like “From Realism to Abstraction” and Visual Journaling to promote reflection, creative engagement, creative self-expression and wellness.



Veteran Elders in Dependent Care Settings

 Military veterans are served by Tidewater Arts Outreach programs in elder-care day and residential settings throughout Hampton Roads.  Aging veterans face series of losses which are typical in their late stage of life: loss of physical and/or mental capacities, loss of independence, loss of friends and loved ones, loss of home, loss of social support networks, social status, career and independence.  We introduce arts engagement as opportunities for stimulation, socialization, creative self-expression, sense of purpose and identity, as a way to share important life stories, as a way to connect more meaningfully with caregivers, and much more.

Comments about these programs include: 
“Makes me happy to be alive.” 
“Made me feel young!” 

“The most touching moment was singing Elvis Presley’s ‘I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,’ when each performer held the hand of two residents.  They enjoyed the connection, and I could see that they held tightly to the friendly contact.” 

“It helped us think of things we otherwise wouldn’t have thought of.”
“The pictures brought back good memories.”


 USO Warrior Week

 Tidewater Arts Outreach will participate in the 2017 USO Warrior Week celebration at USO Patriot Park in Virginia Beach, June 2 to June 4.  Military caregivers attending USO Warrior Week will have the opportunity to take part in an afternoon visual arts experience that is designed to inspire, promote resilience and provide positive perspective in the face of long-term caregiving challenges.  



Military Caregivers

Arts Aid for Hidden Heroes is a grant-funded program through the Elizabeth Dole Foundation.  This funding allows Tidewater Arts Outreach to provide a dozen participatory arts programs for Hampton Roads military caregivers throughout calendar year 2017, in partnership with the Hampton location of the Veteran’s Administration (VA) Caregiver Support Program.  The workshops are free and open to area military caregivers.  Program comments include: “I wouldn’t have even known I had these feelings if it weren’t for this program (visual journaling).”

When asked “What did you like best about the program?” another attendee said, “Learning how to take my life back, and that it’s OK to care for me.” Through its support of our work with Hampton Roads military caregivers, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation has recognized the vital impact that high-quality arts-engagement experiences can have on caregivers’ health and well-being. This series aims to create solutions for the tremendous challenges and long-term needs faced by military caregivers.


Children of Military Families

For the past three years, Tidewater Arts Outreach has provided visual arts teachers, materials and creative projects for children undergoing cancer treatment at Portsmouth Navy Medical Center. In addition to the uncertainty of serious illness, young military dependents often endure lengthy treatments that are physically and emotionally difficult.  Do our visual arts programs make a difference?

Here is what one military Mom shared with us:
It brought creativity and happiness to our morning!  Thank you so very much!” Our hands-on visual arts programs allow gravely ill youngsters to focus on something positive that inspires emotional well-being and self-expression while they are undergoing treatment.