Creative Forces Convening: Connecting with Partners from Across the Nation

by Jabari Owens-Bailey, Education Program Manager

Jabari Owens-Bailey (left) on the “Clinic to Community Connections” panel. Photo by Deborah Lenk.

At the end of January, I had the pleasure of attending the Creative Forces Convening in Washington, DC, with Museum of Glass Executive Director Deborah Lenk. Creative Forces is a grantmaking initiative from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) to fund arts-based programming and Creative Arts Therapies as a healing modality for active-duty military personnel and veterans. The Museum’s Hot Shop Heroes program, a basic glassblowing program which creates a therapeutic environment for veterans and active-duty military who are recovering from trauma, typically post-traumatic stress, or traumatic brain injury, received the inaugural NEA Creative Forces Community Engagement Grant to help fund our classes.

The Creative Forces Convening gathered grantees from across the nation. The conference began with a dinner at The Brighton where grantees were able to meet one another. The actual Convening events were held at the Constitution Center, where the NEA headquarters are located. We started the first day listening to Creative Forces Director Bill O’Brien as he addressed the room about the important work of Creative Forces. From there, we moved into activities that revolved around planning for the year, connecting the work of Creative Arts Therapies clinicians to our communities, and strengthening evaluation tools used to assess and grow Creative Forces-funded programming.

Executive Director Lenk and I were able to create lasting connections while these events were happening. One of our Seattle-based community partners, Path with Art, was in attendance, and several organizations from around the country were able to talk to us about their successes and struggles with arts-based programming. On the second day of the conference, I presented on a panel, titled “Clinic to Community Connections,” which was led by Senior Military Medical Advisor to Creative Forces, Dr. Sara Kass. This enabled us to talk about Hot Shop Heroes’ beginnings at Museum of Glass and in the greater Tacoma community, and the ways in which we have been able to cultivate relationships with the clinicians at the Intrepid Spirit Program and the Soldier recovery Unit at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and with the Creative Art Therapists from the Veterans Hospital at American Lake. The Convening was a great place to connect with other grantees and clinicians to learn ways to better support our participants.    

Bryn Cavin