Art Works Blog

Art Works Podcast: Ron Capps

This week, as we prepare for the upcoming special issue of NEA Arts which looks at the arts and the military, the podcast features a conversation with Operation Homecoming instructor, Ron Capps. Capps served in the U.S. Army and Army Reserve for 25 years. Since leaving the military, he has worked as a writer and researcher focusing broadly on two sets of issues: international relations and the care for returning veterans, particularly mental health care and the therapeutic role writing can play for veterans and service members. To that end, he began the Veterans Writing Project, a not-for-profit program that provides free writing seminars and workshops for veterans, service members, and military families.

At the same time, the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (or the NICoE) was created as a response to the challenges posed by signature wounds suffered by service members in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Located on the campus of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, NICoE aims to be a leader in the treatment and research of TBI and psychological health. It offers a four-week program for service members suffering from brain injuries and other psychological trauma, and provides psychotherapy, physical therapy, yoga, meditation, and the Healing Arts Program. The Healing Arts Program focuses on the visual arts, music, and writing, and plays a central role in the assessment and treatment of these service members. The National Endowment for the Arts is partnering with NICoE to investigate the impact that arts interventions may have on the psychological and cognitive health of these wounded service members. This partnership resulted in NICoE's incorporation of Operation Homecoming, the NEA's writing program for service members, into therapeutic sessions with patients and their families.

When Capps's work with the Veterans Writing Project came to the attention of the NEA, the agency invited him to develop the curriculum and serve as instructor for Operation Homecoming. Operation Homecoming is structured as two distinct yet integrated tracks at NICoE: it provides an informal four-week creative writing and storytelling series for service members and their families, and serves as an expressive writing workshop just for the service members as part of their clinical rehabilitation. While Capps comes to the program as a professional writer and teacher, he also brings a very personal perspective to Operation Homecoming. [1:42]

Be sure to check out the special issue of our magazine NEA Arts focusing on arts and the military. You'll find it online next week at arts.gov.

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