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, yoga, and tai chi 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.

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.

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.

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that is most often practiced as a form of moving meditation. It consists of a set of low impact, fluid movements that can be done by anyone, whether standing or seated. Regular Tai Chi practice helps to improve balance and range of motion. Practicing Tai Chi promotes calmness by relaxing the nervous system and reducing stress. 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.

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

Read the story

Meet the CAV team

Amy Barthold

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

Todd Burkhardt, Ph.D.

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

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

Logan Gingerich

CAV Project Manager Intern, B.S. Psychology and Biology


Kristi Gmutza, ATR-BC

Creative Arts Therapist, Indianapolis VA Medical Center


Madeleine Gonin, Ph.D.

Tai Chi Instructor

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

Associate Professor, Social Work

Brooke Neubaum

M.A. candidate, art therapy

Laura Swinford, L.C.S.W.

Somatic Experiencing Practitioner, Trauma Therapist, and Registered Yoga Teacher

Olivia Tornetta

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

Lyndsay Valadez

CAV Project Manager Intern, B.A. Studio Arts and Journalism

Jeni Waters

Media Specialist, IU Center for Rural Engagement

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

M.S.W. student