My name is Kathleen Ellertson,
Director of the Veteran Art Institute,
and here is my story...
I am the daughter of an Army Air Forces Veteran, a WWII Bronze Star Medal recipient who was also an artist. My father suffered from unspoken PTSD which resulted in alcoholism. His alcoholism had lifelong affects on my childhood and our entire family.
I grew up facing both mental and emotional challenges. Life went on. I tried to create a new persona. I pursued and earned a BA in Art History and studied in Italy. I worked in IT companies and raised my children.
When my dad died in 2009 the old mental and emotional battles resurged. This time I faced them head on. I knew I wanted to do something to honor my dad’s service but also help Veterans with PTSD. I pondered.
Listening to a Bruce Springsteen song, “We Take Care of our Own”, it struck me that we do NOT take good care of our Veterans. Knowing the healing properties of art, I researched “veterans and art”, discovered the Veteran Artist Program and became their Visual Arts Coordinator. From 2012 through 2018 I helped curate art shows of veterans work, starting with a 50-veteran show at the Pentagon. Many other exhibitions followed giving voice to the veterans experiences and stories through their art.
Giving back to the Veteran community in this way has proven to be more fulfilling than I ever hoped and now it’s my life work. I was inspired to create my own nonprofit where Veterans can collaborate and show their work in galleries, all while raising awareness of PTSD and other invisible wounds. With my fine arts knowledge, and with the help of veterans and friends thereof, I have created the Veteran Art Institute, a 501(c)3.
The first joint project with the Veterans Administration resulted in 15 discrete Women Veteran Art Exhibits, nationwide, at VA facilities, during November and December 2019.