New CCAD and Veteran Arts Initiative film explores Veterans’ stories of healing through art

Oct 1, 2020
CCAD student filmmakers interview Veteran Leni D. Anderson.

CCAD student filmmakers Madeline Anson and Madison Van Buren (both Film & Video, 2020) and CCAD faculty Stephanie West, set up for their shoot with Veteran Leni D. Anderson. Photo by Heather Seymour.

New CCAD and Veteran Arts Initiative film explores Veterans’ stories of healing through art

Media contact:
Leah Spellman, APR
Director of Communications

COLUMBUS, OHIO—How can the arts help Veterans heal? Can sharing one’s story be transformative? These are some of the questions explored during the spring of 2020 through a creative learning project between Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) and the Veteran Arts Initiative (VAI) of the VA Central Ohio Healthcare System. Now, that project is turning into a documentary film, Re-story: Transforming Veteran Stories into Art, which will debut Nov. 13–15, 2020 as part of the National Veterans Film Festival Presents series of virtual film screenings and panel discussions leading up to the inaugural National Veterans Film Festival happening Sept. 10–12, 2021 in collaboration with the Gateway Film Center and the National Veterans Memorial and Museum. The public is invited to attend the free virtual film screening and a virtual panel discussion on Nov. 13, 2020 from 6–7 p.m. EST.

During the four-month long partnership, 28 CCAD students from three classes in documentary video, podcasting, and animation were paired with 21 VAI participants to share Veterans’ stories and explore how their creative efforts as artists have helped them to process their individual military experiences. In addition, Veterans’ poems from the VAI poetry workshops at the Franklin County jail were used to create short animations. The videos, podcasts, and animations were combined and edited to make the forthcoming 45-minute documentary.

“By engaging in this rich learning partnership with the VA, our students had the real-world experience of making a direct impact in our community,” said Nicole Monahan, Director of Corporate & Community Partnerships at CCAD. “It was powerful for them to connect with each Veteran as a fellow artist; it immediately created an understanding through which they could tell the Veteran's story whether the student had military experience or not. "

Before working with the Veterans, students received training from VAI Program Coordinator Heather Seymour and VA Patient Advocate Tyler Strine on empathic listening and military culture, ethics, and privacy. The Veterans were consulted throughout the project and will receive a copy of their final stories. The idea for the project began forming two years ago when Monahan and Seymour were involved in a research project on creativity and stress reduction at Chalmers P. Wylie VA Ambulatory Care Center. Monahan, then an adjunct faculty member at CCAD, knew it would be productive and inspiring for students to work with the VAI Veterans. When she started her new role at CCAD last year, she and Seymour both thought it was the perfect time to bring the collaboration to life once more.

The overall project, dubbed “Re-story,” gave Veterans an opportunity to retell or “re-story” aspects of their lives both in and out of the military and reflect on how making art transforms these narratives. Sharing one’s story with a student also is an act of creation from which comes healing and understanding, according to Seymour.

“Re-story allowed a unique space for intergenerational dialogue that bridges the racial, gender, and socioeconomic divides through the commonality of making art,” said Seymour. “We started with a question, ‘How can collaborative creative storytelling connect Veterans and civilians across generations?’ The answers are in the works themselves. The common thread is that no life experiences define us, we are all dynamic. We all want to be heard, understood, and this platform of storytelling is essential in a digital world.”

Vivian T. Hutson, Medical Center Director of the Columbus VA added, “There is a generation of Veterans that are just beginning to tell their story. Film is a way to express the truth of their experience and to share it with fellow Veterans, their communities, and generations to come.”

The partnership has also left a lasting impact on the CCAD students involved, such as Antonio Sais (Advertising & Graphic Design, 2020). As part of his CCAD podcasting class, Sais interviewed World War II Veteran Andrew Lisko. Lisko, who taught music at Capital University from 1954 to 1990, plays violin and joined the VAI shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“As I listen to my interview with Professor Lisko, I am constantly humbled by the way he speaks of his life, and the impact World War II had on him,” said Sais. “He is truly an amazing person who has made me look at life from a whole different perspective. Professor Lisko’s story reminds me that no matter how bad things get, the world will be okay.”

Re-story: Transforming Veteran Stories into Art kicks off the National Veterans Film Festival Presents series Nov. 13–15, 2020 during National Veterans and Military Families Month. The series continues in March 2021 and in July 2021. To learn more about the inaugural National Veterans Film Festival and the Presents series, visit

About Veteran Arts Initiative of the VA Central Ohio Healthcare System

The Veteran Arts Initiative (VAI) of the VA Central Ohio Healthcare System is a diverse creative arts program that aims to facilitate mental wellness, increase social connectedness, and create a supportive community to form positive connections with the VA. Its mission was developed by the Veteran Arts Council (VAC), a self-governed group of Veterans that acts as the VAI advisory board. VAI offers free programs, including an open studio, artist in residency programs, workshops in visual arts, theater, writing, dance, music, crafts, as well as Choir & Jam night, exhibition opportunities, museum & gallery trips, and research on the health and psychological benefits of art. To learn more, contact Heather Seymour at

About Columbus College of Art & Design

Columbus College of Art & Design teaches undergraduate and graduate students in the midst of a thriving creative community in Columbus, Ohio. Founded in 1879, CCAD is one of the oldest private, nonprofit art and design colleges in the United States. CCAD offers 12 BFA programs and a Master of Fine Arts program that produce graduates equipped to shape culture and business at the highest level. For more information, visit