Creative Arts for Vets

Improving well-being for U.S. veterans and service members

Creative Arts for Vets (CAV) aims to support veterans, service members, and military-connected populations of all ages and abilities through the arts and arts-based approaches that promote connectedness and improve mental health and wellbeing. Evidence-based research shows that arts-based wellness, equine assisted activities, and yoga can improve mindfulness, and reduce negative feelings associated with stress, anxiety, depression, and trauma. Creative Arts for Vets collaborates with veterans, service members, military-connected populations, community organizations, and the Indiana Department of Veteran Affairs to develop unique experiences that fit the needs and interests present in specific communities. All of our events are free, and we travel anywhere in the state of Indiana and beyond. With our events, veterans and service members are always encouraged to bring a plus one—a spouse, a friend, or an adult family member.

CAV is an authorized VA Vendor through Our Vendor # is 27539.

Arts-based wellness is using art as a way to promote self-care and mental health. Using art can assist in discovering and developing skills to successfully navigate challenges. And art can help in improving social connectedness and interpersonal relationships. Potential types of arts-based wellness exercises include mask making, needle felting, kintsugi, and others. No experience is required. Event duration: 90-120 minutes.

Art + Horses is the combination of arts-based wellness accompanied with equine assisted activities. Equine assisted activities assist with being calmer, focused, and fully-engaged. Art can be combined with the equine experience such as designing symbols then painting those symbols on horses or the two events can be separate but co-located. This event will take place in Monroe County (People and Animal Learning Services). This is a non-riding experience. No experience is required. Event duration: 120-180 minutes.

Art + Farm is a combination of arts-based wellness accompanied with Shetland sheep and lamb-assisted activities on a beautiful 150-acre farm. Sheep and lamb interaction creates wonder, joy, and intentionality. Art, such as needle felting, will be combined with the sheep experience as a way to reflect and capture the beauty of nature. This event will take place in southwest Monroe County at Marble Hill Farm. Event duration: 120 minutes.

Yoga is an ancient practice of moving meditation. It is a set of static poses that can be done by anyone. These poses are designed to improve strength, balance, and flexibility. Practicing yoga reduces stress and relaxes the nervous system. Yoga consists of standing and floor-based poses. No experience is required. Event duration: 60-90 minutes.

If you have a particular idea that you are interested in, please contact us.

Support programming for Indiana veterans

Help improve veteran mental health and well-being with a gift to the Center for Rural Engagement Veterans Fund.

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The CAV Book

A Guidebook for Therapeutic Artmaking for Veterans, Those Currently Serving, and Military-Connected Populations

The CAV Book is a bridge from CAV sessions to home life to aid in improving veteran well-being through arts-based exercises infused with social work and art therapy practices, veteran narratives, and supplemental veteran-centric wellness resources. It’s a guidebook for therapeutic artmaking for veterans, those currently serving, and military-connected populations. This book is a way to use art at home and self-regulate in a healthy and positive way. CAV Books are accompanied with art supplies (oil pastels, colored pencils, and charcoals). The CAV Book can enhance resiliency and help facilitate the discovering and developing of skills to successfully navigate challenges that veterans face.

CAV is an authorized VA Vendor through Our Vendor # is 27539.

New book expands access to arts-based wellness for U.S. veterans across the world

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Meet the CAV team

Amy Barthold

M.S.W. student, Marine veteran, and artist

Bella Bukur

CAV Project Manager Co-lead Intern, Community Health, and Public Management and Leadership

Todd Burkhardt, Ph.D.

Director of Campus Partnerships, Center for Rural Engagement and Army veteran

Nadia Cain

CAV Project Manager Co-Lead Intern, Environmental Management and Astrophysics

Lauren Daugherty, L.M.H.C, ATR-BC

Arts-based Wellness Experiences Manager, Eskenazi Museum of Art

Evan Davis, CTRS

Recreational Therapist, Physical Medicine and Rehab Services, Indianapolis VA Medical Center


Kristi Gmutza, ATR-BC

Creative Arts Therapist, Indianapolis VA Medical Center


Marielle Hug, MM

Yoga teacher, classically trained vocalist, and music educator


John Keesler, Ph.D., M.S.W.

Associate Professor, Social Work

Kristina Kokot

CAV Project Manager Intern, Criminal Justice and Environment and Sustainability Studies

Shivam Mishra

CAV Project Metrics Specialist Intern, MS Data Science student

Riley Stanley

CAV Project Manager Intern, Kelley Business Management and Leading DEI Organizations

Laura Swinford, L.C.S.W.

Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, Trauma Therapist, and Registered Yoga Teacher


Olivia Tornetta

CAV Project Manager Intern, B.A. Criminal Justice and Psychology

Jeni Waters

Media Specialist, IU Center for Rural Engagement

Irina Watkins, M.S.W., M.Ed.

Behavioral Health Network Clinician