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Retired Army General To Discuss Art’s Role In Military Healing At Kentucky Creative Industry Summit

Retired Brig. Gen. Nolen Bivens will present the plenary session at the Kentucky Arts Council’s fourth annual Kentucky Creative Industry Summit, Dec. 5 in Morehead.

Bivens presentation, titled “Building an Arts and Military Community, Health & Wellness Ecosystem,” will focus on national efforts to promote opportunities for artists, arts organizations and communities interested in supporting the well-being of military service members, veterans and their families.

Bivens, a 32-year United States Army veteran and former chief of staff for the U.S. Southern Command, is the founder and president of Leader Six, a company that provides management and operational support for business, government and nonprofit organizations. In the past decade, Leader Six has been a key proponent in promoting arts in health and military healing for ill, injured and wounded military service members and their families. In addition to his role at Leader Six, Bivens is the Senior Policy Fellow for Arts and Military for Americans for the Arts.

“The arts promote communication between military service members, veterans, their families and caregivers, allowing each one of them to accept and share the unique story of their military service with each other and with the community at large through the visual and literary arts, performance, dance and music,” Bivens said. “The arts also build resiliency across the military continuum, teaching skills to process grief and loss, to work through moral conflict, and to reduce stress.”

An ardent advocate for strong arts and military community engagements from grassroots to the national level, Bivens has testified before Congress and led congressional briefings on arts and military health on behalf of the National Initiative for Arts & Health in the Military, a collaborative effort led by Americans for the Arts. Bivens regularly consults with the arts community, utilizing his unique understanding of operational perspectives of commanders, enlisted noncommissioned officers and family members, along with the cultural sensitivities of the veteran population, to promote connections and help develop new arts programming for military and veteran communities.

Among the successful examples of collaboration between arts communities and the military are the Oklahoma Arts Council’s Oklahoma Arts and Military Initiative, a partnership involving Oklahoma’s Department of Veterans Affairs and the Firehouse Art Center in Norman, Okla. This collaboration piloted a series of eight- to 12-week hands-on learning courses, including photography, creative writing and visual arts.

Another successful collaboration Bivens points to is the Tennessee Shakespeare Company’s initiative bringing together service veterans with theater professionals using William Shakespeare’s plays to address combat-related traumatic and reintegration issues.

Bivens is just one of several arts leaders on the Summit agenda. Morehead State University art instructor and gallery director Jennifer Reis will give presentations on branding and marketing and using social media. The Summit will also include panel discussions on the arts council’s “Homegrown Handmade” initiative that has integrated artists into farmers markets in two Kentucky counties, as well as a conversation with educators, artists and workforce development specialists on preparing youth to be a part of the creative industry workforce using arts and technology.

The Kentucky Creative Industry Summit is 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Dec. 5 at the Morehead Conference Center, 111 E. First St. in Morehead. For more information or to register, visit the arts council website.

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