Victorian health-promotion agency VicHealth made an important statement on the value of the arts for veterans’ wellbeing in the prestigious annual VicHealth Awards in December.
The Australian National Veterans Arts Museum (ANVAM) was Highly Commended for its inaugural exhibition, A March to Art: Identity, in the ‘Better Health through Art’ category.
In a very competitive field, the Highly Commended was second only to the Melbourne Arts Centre in partnership with Circus Oz and VicHealth.
ANVAM’s 2017 exhibition included 18 current and ex-serving veterans representing all three services, plus family members, exploring the theme of identity.
This theme sought to reveal the challenges faced by many veterans, especially during times of transition, which may contribute to detrimental effects on mental health.
ANVAM Director Mark Johnston said the museum and everyone associated with it and the exhibition were very proud of the recognition for tackling the issues of veterans’ mental health in a positive, non-judgmental and constructive format.
“I am particularly proud of all the artists for their courage in sharing their stories, and for the curation of this exhibition lead by Bruce Copland,” Mr Johnston said.
Veteran artist Sean Burton headlined the exhibition with his seminal work, ‘Pete’, that became the face of the exhibition.
This work now hangs in Parliament House in Canberra on loan to Senator Derryn Hinch, whose own reaction to the exhibition led him to directly engage with the government on veterans’-health issues.
The exhibition, and ANVAM’s exhibitions in general, are part of ANVAM’s broader work to support veterans’ health and wellbeing through the arts.
ANVAM, a charity and public benevolent institution supporting veterans and families through the arts, is working hard to establish a unique cultural institution for veterans in the former Repatriation Commission Outpatient Clinic built in 1937 for World War 1 veterans.
Mr Johnston said an important part of ANVAM’s work was to help ESOs build communities.
“In the context of veterans’ mental health, identity and community are both very important and are inter-related.
“With our qualified arts and health professionals we ensure a well-structured and safe environment for participants while working toward outcomes ranging from rehabilitation and wellbeing through to employment readiness and mentoring.”
ANVAM has also teamed up with Melbourne Legacy to provide support directly to veterans families.
This program was piloted in 2017 and is being implemented throughout 2018.
The artworks from the A March to Art: Identity exhibition are available to view on ANVAM’s web site.
ANVAM’s next exhibition, March to Art: Community, will commence on 25 March and run until 25 April at the Collins Place Gallery in Melbourne.