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Maryland artist emphasizes importance of arts for veterans

FREDERICK, Md. — "When you think about veterans, normally you don't usually think about the arts as being in the same sentence," Erin Byers said.

Byers, a Frederick-based artist, former Army sergeant and director of visual arts for the Baltimore-based Veteran Artist Program, said many vets like herself are involved in and care deeply about the arts. The mission of the VAP is to encourage and promote veteran artists through various means, including networking, mentorship, collaboration with other artists and art organizations, original stage productions, short videos and documentaries, curated veteran art shows and more.

"Veterans have a place in shaping the arts here in Maryland and nationwide," she added. "Maryland is a really arts-friendly state, and we want to make sure the arts community and legislators understand ... that we bring important aspects."

For this reason, the Veteran Artist Program has partnered with Maryland Citizens for the Arts for the 2013 Maryland Arts Day, to be held Wednedsay in Annapolis. At the event, about 400 arts professionals, trustees, patrons, artists and small business leaders from every county in the state will come together to exercise the democratic right of petitioning one's government, according to a news release. Throughout the day, citizens — including Byers and other representatives from the VAP — will meet with legislators from their individual districts to discuss the importance of continued funding and support for the arts.

Byers, who specializes in photography and mixed media, said the VAP is gathering as many veteran artists as possible to join them for the event, and some of their participants will bring their own artwork to display.

Maryland Arts Day will also feature performances throughout the day.

"People always talk about the 'military-civilian divide,'" Byers said. "We seek to bridge that gap or close it, and the arts are a great way to do that. They're a great outlet for expression and communication ... for veterans to relate their experiences to other veterans and civilians."

For details about the Veteran Artist Program, visit www.veteranartistprogram.org.
 

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