There are more than 20 million military veterans in the US. Even so, their experiences are largely something that civilians can only imagine. An opportunity to bridge that gap is one of the reasons that organizers of the fifth annual Veteran Arts Showcase this weekend at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library in Hyde Park are encouraging civilians to attend, and experience all the activities planned alongside current and former members of the Armed Forces and their families.
The three-day event will be held Friday through Sunday, November 17 to 19. Admission is free. An opening reception will kick things off on Friday at 5:30 p.m., with a Presentation of Colors and opening remarks by Paul Sparrow, director of the FDR site. Refreshments and hors d’oeuvres will be served. A short program of civilian and veteran presentations will follow, then a meet-the-artists reception from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
The gallery will reopen on Saturday, November 18 from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. and Sunday, November 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibit features drawings, paintings, mixed-media works and sculpture, along with handcrafted items made by active-duty military, veterans and their families. The visual arts provide a powerful conduit through which a vet can confront and express his or her experiences, recover from the aftereffects of war and reconnect with fellow veterans once home again.
The healing power of words will be displayed through presentations all weekend by writers, musicians, poets and performers who will interpret the military experience, allowing civilians to better understand the connections between themselves and those who have served. A Korean War-era Army Jeep will be on display, and demonstrations will include meditation and Tai Chi.
A Warrior Writer Workshop will be held Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. for up to 12 participants. Space is limited, so preregistration is required at firstname.lastname@example.org. A series of guided exercises, feedback and group discussion will offer service members, vets and military families the opportunity to explore their journeys and share them with others.
The Warwick Valley Wire Choir Orchestra will perform at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday. The group, composed of students in fifth through 12th grades, has played at a variety of community events since the group formed 13 years ago under the direction of Elissa Maynard, whose father is an Air Force veteran who served in Vietnam.
Jerry the Bulldog (a band) will follow, leading off an afternoon of live music and spoken-word presentations by vets. The newly formed rock band features vet and singer/songwriter/guitarist John Irizarry, with the emphasis on music that tells a story. The rest of the band is made up of guitarist Kane Armistead, bassist Randy Sutter and drummer Larry Neumann, a Navy veteran. From 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., an open-mic civilian/veteran jam will happen.
Saturday evening features a 7 p.m. performance of Nothing Means Nothing by Larry Winters, author of the memoir The Making and Unmaking of a Marine. The one-act play features veterans Tom Nolan, Mike Harelick and Brian Lepak addressing many of the questions that arise about the veteran experience, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The playwright and actors will hold a question-and-answer discussion after the performance. Information about effective therapies for PTSD will also be available to visitors at the event.
Sunday’s schedule will include another civilian/veteran open-mic jam from 2 to 4 p.m., followed by the Nimham Mountain Singers, a Native American group based in the Hudson Valley who share their Algonquin culture through traditional song and dance at various schools and events. The art gallery will be open all day.
The Veteran Arts Showcase is a collaborative effort among the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, the Veteran Family Support Alliance and the Orange County New York Arts Council, with additional support from the Mill Street Loft in Poughkeepsie and outpatient art therapy programs at the VA Hudson Valley, Montrose campus.
Veteran Arts Showcase, Friday, November 17, 5:30-8:30 p.m., Saturday, November 18, 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m., Sunday, November 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., free, FDR Presidential Library, Route 9, Hyde Park; (845) 486-7745, https://veteranartsshowcase.org.