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The Work of Four Western New York Veterans to be Featured at the National Veterans Creative Arts Competition & Festival

Oct 25, 2019
Press Release
Congressman Higgins & Buffalo VA Recognize Local Veteran Gold Medal Winners

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) joined VA Western New York Healthcare System Executive Director Michael Swartz and Recreation Therapy Supervisor Pam Kaznowski in recognizing four Western New York veterans whose creative pieces will be featured nationally.


“Alternative therapies including the creative arts provide an outlet that requires focus, deliberation and skill, many of the same attributes our veterans employed in service to this nation,” said Congressman Higgins.  “We are fortunate to have an outstanding program available to veterans in Western New York. This annual competition is an opportunity to put on display the multifaceted talents of our veterans and provides a tangible glimpse into the emotion that comes from military service.”


“All of us at VA Western New York Healthcare System are happy for the successes of these Veterans and the talents they share,” stated VA WNYHS Executive Director, Michael Swartz. “Creative arts therapy helps Veterans to heal. This type of therapy along with other VA Recreation Therapy programs are evidence based approaches to rehabilitation and treatment. We are pleased to offer it, as contributes to the health and well-being of Veterans.”


The National Veterans Creative Arts Competition & Festival, taking place from October 28 through November 3 in Kalamazoo, Michigan, will showcase the work of the local veterans. The Art & Writing Exhibition, hosted by the Department of Veteran Affairs and the American Legion Auxiliary, features the gold medal-winning artwork and creative writing entries from across the nation. 


VA medical facilities across the country hold local competitions, through their respective Recreation Therapy programs. Veterans enrolled in VA health care, can enter their work in visual arts division categories such as oil painting and leatherwork, and/or performing arts categories, to include music, drama, dance, comedy, and creative writing. The VA Western New York Healthcare System hosted a local festival in February. 


Congressman Higgins and VA WNY Healthcare System Director Swartz hailed the value of recreational therapy programs and recognized the following Western New York veterans who will have work featured at the national competition:

  • Steve Banko: U.S. Army veteran awarded a gold medal in the category of Inspirational Writing for his essay titled “Love Must Survive War”
  • Colleen Johnson: U.S. Army veteran awarded a gold medal for her painted figurine titled “Michael the Archangel
  • Alex Brown: U.S. Air Force veteran awarded a gold medal for her knitting piece titled “Heroes, Shadowed
  • Frank Becker: U.S. Army veteran awarded a therapeutic art scholarship for his piece titled “Model T to Cereal City”

This annual national competition recognizes Veteran progress and personal recovery made through recreation therapy and raises the visibility of the creative achievements of our nation’s Veterans after disease, disability, or life crisis.  For more information on VA Recreation Therapy programs, please call Pam Kaznowski at 716-862-6814.