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Creative Arts For Veterans Arrives In Cookeville

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Creative Arts For Veterans Arrives In Cookeville

Military veterans in Cookeville can submit work to the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival through a new, local creative arts chapter.

Veteran and Retired Author John Koelsch said he brought the idea to the city last year after creating a similar chapter in Salem, Virginia 14 years ago. He said veterans will be able to submit works in art, drama, creative writing, dance, and music. He said work will be submitted locally, through the Alvin C. York facility, and winners will be invited to the national competition.

“They can do things just like anybody else can,” Koelsch said. “And when you get with the veterans and you work and you start talking about the things you’re doing and you’ve done and we’re doing here, it’s just very uplifting; very, very special.”

Koelsch said anyone registered with the Cookeville Veterans Association will be eligible to submit work. He said those who are selected to attend the national festival are in for a life-changing experience.

“We make friends,” Koelsch said. “We get a different viewpoint. We’re not alone. We’re not the only ones that put up with this or that and we confirm that, hey, we can do things that other people do. We can do the arts.”

He said since he created the chapter in Virginia, 28 veterans from the chapter have won gold medals.

Koelsch said the event is experiencing extreme growth. He said last year, some 6,600 works were submitted, compared to the typical number of some 4,400. He said some 140 vets will attend the national event in Denver. Airfare, food, and lodging are provided and every participant will earn a festival medal.

The event culminates with a three-hour stage show choreographed by the participants. He said those who are invited to nationals will have a chance to connect with hundreds of people who can identify with what they have gone through.

“Tennessee’s a large state,” Koelsch said. “We’ve got a lot of veterans. Let’s see if we can find veterans that are interested and I can help guide them.”

Veterans interested should reach out via phone at (608) 397-0718 to get started.


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