Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System
Biloxi VA Medical Center Hosts Creative Arts Compe
BILOXI, Miss. – Nearly fifty Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System-area (GCVHCS) Veterans participated in the Creative Arts Competition at the Biloxi Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center Recreation Hall Mar. 4 and 5 as a part of the nationwide VA creative arts competitions.
GCVHCS displayed 86 entries of Veteran-created artwork, including paintings and drawings, crafts and creative writing samples Mar. 4 in the Recreation Hall, while music, singing and dramatic performances were held Mar. 5. The artwork and performances were judged by Biloxi, Mississippi-area artists.
Biloxi VA Medical Center Chief of Staff Reginald Labossiere provided opening remarks for the Creative Arts Competition, emphasizing the importance of the annual event.
“I want to thank our Recreation Department for doing a fantastic job in organizing this event and in providing new and creative outlets for our Veterans,” he said. “It is important for Veterans to have ways of expressing themselves, creatively or otherwise, and our Recreation Therapy Department is doing such an outstanding job providing outlets for our Veterans to further their rehabilitation and therapy.”
In the category of fine art, first, second and third places were awarded in the following categories: acrylic painting, oil painting, watercolor, monochromatic drawing, colored drawing, sculpture, printmaking, black and white photography, color photography, digital art and military combat experience.
- Acrylic Painting first place winner: Kaitlin Borri – Spring is Coming
- Oil Painting first place winner: Tammy Gragg – Christmas Morning in the MS Sound
- Watercolor first place winner: Anthony Valdez – Thoughts Hanging From a Glass Head
- Colored Drawing first place winner: Renee Skalij – Baby Bird
- Sculpture first place winner: David Williams – Female Bust
- Printmaking first place winner: Tammy Gragg – Owl Eyes
- Black and White Photography first place winner: Jamie Guice – In the Moment
- Color Photography first place winner: Jamie Guice – Deception
- Digital Art first place winner Renee Skalij – A Mermaid and a Starfish
- Military and Combat Experience first place winner: Christopher Gray – Battle of NAJAF/No Soldier Could Have Built It
In the category of applied art, first, second and third places were awarded in the following categories: carving, crocheting/knitting, mosaic, collage, assemblage, design in fiber arts, glasswork, beadwork, mixed media and group category.
- Carving first place winner: George Lovato – Elk Hunter
- Crocheting/Knitting first place winner: Melinda Gerhart – Fidget Sleeve
- Mosaic first place winner: Doris Jones – Christmas Mosaic Globe
- Collage first place winner: Ernest White – Life
- Assemblage first place winner: Veronica Myers – Diabetes is Like a Box of Chocolates
- Design in Fiber Arts first place winner: Jacque Gresham – Star Bangled Flag
- Glasswork first place winner: Zachary Borri – You Are My World
- Beadwork first place winner: Esther Burge – Elegant Cream Charm
- Mixed Media first place winner: Renee Skalij – A Sea Turtle’s Life
- Group Category first place winner: Pop Heroes – Purple Heart
In the category of craft kits, first, second and third places were awarded in the following categories: model building and craft coloring kit.
- Model Building first place winner: Christopher Gray – Batman
- Craft Coloring Kit first place winner: John Edwards – A City in New Mexico
In addition to these categories and winners, visual arts special recognition for the mental health challenge was also awarded. First place went to Victoria Yanen with a piece called Alone; second place went to Christopher Gray with a piece called Everything is Perfect.
In the category of creative writing, winners were announced in the following categories: inspirational poetry, patriotic poetry, other poetry, humorous essay, other essay, personal experience and short, short story.
- Inspirational Poetry first place winner: Vernon Mangum
- Patriotic Poetry first place winner: Veronica Myers
- Other Poetry first place winner: Veronica Myers
- Humorous Essay first place winner: Ian Stenning
- Other Essay first place winner: Myra Ancheta
- Personal Experience first place winner: Ian Stenning
- Short, Short Story first place winner: Veronica Myers
Veronica Myers is a GCVHCS-area U.S. Army Veteran who entered multiple items in the Creative Arts Competition, taking first place in Patriotic Poetry, Other Poetry, Short, Short Story, Assemblage, Vocal Solo Jazz, Vocal Solo Spiritual and Original Vocal, as well as a third-place recognition in Color Photography.
“When you go through things and you come home and can’t talk about them with family and friends who have no frame of reference for what you’ve seen and what you’ve experienced, you take it and you put it in a box and the years go on and eventually the box can’t hold it all,” Myers said. “Going to the Vet Center in Pensacola led me to begin writing and it helped with the healing and provided me with an outlet to put words to the experiences that you cannot articulate to other people.”
The second day of the Creative Arts Competition included competitions in dance and music. The categories for dance included Ethnic/Cultural and Line Dancing. The music category included Vocal Solo Country/Folk/Bluegrass; Vocal Solo Jazz; Vocal Solo Rock/Blues; Vocal Solo Patriotic; Vocal Solo Spiritual; Vocal Rap/Hip-hop and Original Vocal. The instrumental categories included Instrumental Solo; Country/Folk/Bluegrass; Instrumental Solo Pop; Instrumental Solo Classical; Instrumental Solo Spiritual and Instrumental World/Ethnic music.
- Ethnic/Cultural first place winner: Myra Ancheta
- Line Dancing first place winner: Too Hot performed by Myra Ancheta, Carla Heard, Vanessa Polk, Patricia Reese and Teresa Stripling-Gatpatan
- Vocal Solo Country/Folk/Bluegrass first place winner: Hurricane performed by Bradley Love
- Vocal Solo Jazz first place winner: Lush Life performed by Veronica Myers
- Vocal Solo Rock/Blues first place winner: Splish Splash performed by Ralph Nelson
- Vocal Solo Patriotic first place winner: Patriotic Melody performed by Michael Anderson
- Vocal Solo Spiritual first place winner: Sparrow Love the Lord performed by Veronica Myers
- Vocal Rap/Hip-Hop first place winner: Billboard Rap performed by Ralph Nelson
- Original Vocal first place winner: When Does the Paint Dry performed by Veronica Myers
- Instrumental Solo Country/Folk/Bluegrass first place winner: Sentimental Journey performed by Clyde Hilton
- Instrumental Solo Pop first place winner: Mull of Kintyre performed by Quinn Chestant
- Instrumental Solo Classical first place winner: Green Sleeves performed by Quinn Chestant
- Instrumental Solo Spiritual first place winner: Amazing Grace performed by Clyde Hilton
- Instrumental World/Ethnic Music first place winner: So Gran performed by Quinn Chestant
Some first-place finishers could be eligible for the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival Nov. 28 through Dec. 5.
Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System (GCVHCS) Recreation Therapy Supervisor, Laura Throop organized the event to incorporate arts into Veterans therapy programs to further the rehabilitation for both inpatients and outpatients.
“This annual competition recognizes the progress and recovery made through this type of therapy and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our Veterans,” she said. “This competition provides Veterans receiving treatment at VA facilities the opportunity to participate in creative self-expression and gain recognition for their artistic accomplishments.”
The Biloxi Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, along with the Mobile, Pensacola, Eglin and Panama City VA Clinics are all part of the GCVHCS, which is headquartered in Biloxi, Mississippi, and provides a variety of medical outpatient services to more than 70,000 Veterans.