The Power of Art in the Veteran Community

The Power of Art in the Veteran Community

  • By Gabrielle.Castaldo
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In late September we held our 4th Chicago Veterans Art Initiative, with 16 participating veteran artists showcasing 40 total unique pieces. While artists were there as early as 10:30am to set up, doors officially opened at 3pm and over 180 attendees came throughout the evening. Some attendees purchased artwork, and others expressed interest in participating in the next event as artists themselves. 

One particular artist from this event, Steve Kost, who specializes in creating metal sculptures has seen his artistic career take off after displaying his artwork for the first time at the Chicago Veterans Art Initiative. Steve is a US Navy Veteran who served from 1991-1995, first as a Hull Technician and then on a special assignment as a Seabee in Naval Mobile Construction Battalion Forty. During this assignment, he was deployed every 7 months and was sent to Spain, Greece, Guam, and Somalia. After serving, Steve became a union ironworker, where he gained tremendous welding experience. 

Unfortunately, Steve was diagnosed with PTSD and experienced disturbed sleep patterns. As a result, he put his welding knowledge to work and started tinkering around, building and welding random metal pieces together in his garage. He kept these creations as decorations around the house, and eventually, visitors took notice and recommended that he start showing his art. Finally, he took their advice and began searching for a veteran-focused art show in the Chicago area. He quickly found one of Chicago Veterans’ earlier Art Initiatives, decided that he would participate and ended up selling a piece in that first show! Since then, he’s shown his art in multiple galleries, really attributing 2019 to be his year of growth as an artist. From a scrap metal competition in Lansing, Michigan where he was tasked to create two sculptures in a month from junkyard materials, placing 2nd and 3rd with both of his pieces, to win a National Award from the Veterans Administration for his sculpture he showed in the Creative Arts Festival, it’s been a great year for Steve! We were glad to have him back in this most recent event. 

In our conversation with Steve, we asked how art shows like the Chicago Veterans Art Initiative impacted his confidence over time as an artist. Steve’s responded powerfully, saying he was “much more confident after showing my [his] art at the Chicago Veterans Art Initiative. Up until that first show I was nervous and shy about showing my art, never taking any classes or training. I got to meet a lot of other vets and they all said how fantastic and different my work was, giving me an overwhelming sense of confidence. Each time I do well and sell a piece, that recognition is compounding. I can say I never would have thought I would have ended up doing this.

We figured Steve might have some advice to share with other veterans who are hesitant about displaying their work. Steve adamantly recommends getting your work out there. “Try anything you are interested in. It could be water colors, oil painting, ceramics, glass work, anything that you can do that gives you joy. Focusing on it and getting feedback can help you get really good, allowing it to become a positive outlet for you. You can really clear your mind by focusing on the task, and letting your troubles go at least for a short time.”

Steve also recommends staying connected with the artist community, as he personally uses social media to stay in touch with artists around the world. You can find him on Instagram and Facebook at Dads357. Another way he shares his artistic energy with the world is through music! Steve is a drummer in a Chicago rock band called The Seventh Sons that he formed in 2009. They have two professionally produced albums out and can be found on Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music streaming services. He is actively looking to grow a band of all veteran members for a music project similar to Gary Sinise’s LT Dan Band. 

We thank Steve for his service and participation in our Chicago Veterans Art Initiatives! As a sign-off, he wanted to leave our readers with these parting words: “Be positive, try not to let your challenges define you. Negate the bad experiences you have in your life by focusing on something positive.”

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