The Cincinnati Arts Association brings into focus a different aspect of troops serving in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with the presentation of "Letters Home" at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.
The production brings to life actual letters written by soldiers serving in the Middle East. "Letters Home" is part of the Cincinnati Arts Association's Arts in Healing Program, which is supported by an ArtsWave strategic partnership grant.
Inspired by a New York Times opinion article, “The Things They Wrote," "Letters Home" is a powerful portrait of the experience of a soldier during the recent wars, as well as their families' experiences. Written under the most difficult of circumstances, these letters describe the disorientation of training, deployment, separation from family and loved ones, combat and occupational duties in Afghanistan and Iraq. The letters help define for the audience the meaning of patriotism and what it means to serve our country, through acts of bravery, compassion, social responsibility, a sense of community and brotherhood.
Studies continue to uncover data that points to a correlation between the arts and health, and in turn, recovery. War is a traumatic event for those directly involved and by providing a platform to process that trauma and those difficult experiences endured, "Letters Home" is fulfilling the Arts in Healing Program mission of increasing arts experiences for people recovering from trauma and for people with physical, cognitive or emotional challenges.
"'Letters Home' gives veterans a safe place to remember and discuss their own journey and experiences," said Joyce Bonomini, director of education and community relations at the Cincinnati Arts Association.
Greater Cincinnati’s health as a region improves when its residents attain improved health and happiness, and the arts provide a path to both. ArtsWave believes the inherent ability of the arts to connect, inspire and engage, at both individual and community levels.
In April of this year, ArtsWave announced the creation of three new Arts for Health grants, to expand arts programs that improve health outcomes for Greater Cincinnati residents. This initiative was funded through restricted grants as part of the ArtsWave Community Campaign. ArtsWave has partnered with Interact for Health to help organizations integrate the arts with active living, and has invested in a wide variety arts and health initiatives.
Eighteen local organizations submitted applications to the comprehensive grant process for the new Arts for Health grants to expand existing arts and health initiatives, and were encouraged a focus on serving residents of the five designated Place Matters communities: Covington, Ky., Madisonville, Avondale, Price Hill and Walnut Hills. Three programs selected for expansion with the Arts for Health grants are:
- B-Fit with Bi-Okoto, which promotes healthy lifestyles through fun fitness routines, nutrition tips and affirming rewards. This grant will help the program expand its presence into the five Place Matters neighborhoods.
- Creative Aging Cincinnati presents professional artists and arts organization programming adapted for seniors in nursing homes, retirement villages, assisted living facilities, day programs and senior centers. Through this expansion grant, Creative Aging will provide 12 in-facility programs to two such centers in each of the five Place Matters neighborhoods, as well as two large group outreach programs where these centers, along with others, come together in a larger community setting.
- Dancing with Parkinson’s, currently offered at the Wyoming Fine Arts Center, is based on the national Dance for PD® program. The fundamentals of dance – balance, movement sequencing, rhythm and coordination – address the physical challenges that confront people with Parkinson’s. The expansion will include 24 master classes, which will be offered at twelve regional facilities, to 1,200 potential participants. It is estimated that about 14,000 people in the Greater Cincinnati region have been diagnosed with PD.
More than 30 organizations across Greater Cincinnati maintain their own programming focused on the healing power of the arts, and interim reports regarding the success of the three Arts for Health grantees are expected soon.
"Letters Home" takes the Aronoff stage December 5 and 6. Beginning November 24, in partnership with Broadway of Cincinnati, patrons of "White Christmas" or "Letters Home" at the Aronoff are encouraged to participate in Holiday Mail for Heroes (in partnership with the American Red Cross,) wherein they can pen notes of cheer, encouragement and gratitude to service members, which will then be sent to members of our U.S. Armed Forces, veterans and military families.