Making a Difference

Why a Veterans Art Program?

Support for veterans through art is proving to be a viable healing process for those who have fought for our country through many wars. In small towns and communities, concerned citizens and veterans are finding these programs to be an effective tool in connecting with those who have served. One such program was created and is now a fully functioning system in the Helen, Georgia area. This is a fitting example of how local citizens can show appreciation for the service of local veterans, and how they can band together to overcome obstacles.

The Program VAPNG

The Veterans Art Program of Northeast Georgia (VAPNG) is a community-based arts organization serving veterans, spouses, dependents, their caregivers,

As a recognized nonprofit, the program goals are to continue to thrive in White County; provide outreach programs in Habersham, Banks, Stevens, Franklin, Rabun, Towns, Union, Fannin, and Gilmer counties. The organization also plans to extend its reach beyond northeast Georgia to other counties with a high veteran population.

VAPNG offers free classes

The engagement is also equitable: we offer open enrollment and access to free art classes that take place in Cleveland, Georgia, taught by artists of all cultural and social backgrounds, with and without Master of Fine Arts degrees. VAPNG offers artistic support, development, and dignified display of completed artworks.

The Impact

Through on-site community art classes, demonstrations, and exhibitions across northeast Georgia, VAPNG is making a difference. VAPNG provides space for veterans to connect with others and discover an outlet for expressing their experiences through the art making process. By identifying, encouraging, and promoting all artists, VAPNG has a proven record of being an inclusive organization dedicated to promoting a spectrum of voices. By amplifying these voices through promotion from artist to instructor level, while collaborating with veterans, leadership is demonstrated and becomes a model for new participants.

VAPNG continues to engage the larger civilian and veteran communities through the promotion, development, display, and amplification of these many voices, the people and experiences not readily visible in the contemporary art milieu.

Through participation, VAPNG students have a clearly identified path that is easily followed for increasing arts engagement and discovery. Our force impact is to create leadership opportunities to lead the arts, wellness, and community development at the northeast Georgia level.

VAPNG History

Smaller groups of veterans and citizens can have great influence over the lives of those in the community who have served.  It only takes one or two people with a passion for a cause to be effective. Ronald G. Hill and Lisa Cahill are two of those who care and are making a difference.

In 2014, as a member of the board of directors of the Helen Arts and Heritage Center, Helen, Georgia, and past CEO/Founder of two nationally recognized arts and crafts schools, Ron Hill has demonstrated a visible passion for veterans programs of all sizes.  Ron is a retired Army Sergeant Major/Captain, and veteran of the Korean War, Vietnam War, and was recalled for Desert Storm. During Ron’s term as director of the Helens Arts and Heritage Center, he recognized the need for an art program for area veterans.  He contacted the CEO of the Help Heal Veterans (HHV) organization, which provides therapeutic arts and crafts kits for veterans, and secured funding from HHV.  The funding included a salary for a full-time Arts Program Director/Instructor to distribute the kits and provide instruction to veterans.  This was a well-attended, free, weekly program for veterans, their spouses, and/or care providers for several years, then new leadership of HHV terminated the funding.  However, the many veterans wished for continuation of the program, so Lisa Cahill, MFA Art Therapy, the Program Director/Instructor continued, on a volunteer basis, to conduct a well-attended weekly art program at Bridge Church in Cleveland, Georgia. Undeterred by the defunding, in 2022 Ron authored the articles of incorporation and bylaws forming the Veterans Art Program of Northeast Georgia (VAPNG). He then successfully filed with the state of Georgia and IRS as a 501(c)3 nonprofit education organization. This new organization is totally funded by local residents for art supplies and other expenses. There are no paid employees of the organization. Such programs with resolute local veterans can be of help nationally, and the program there needs to be replicated in many places.

The veterans art program of northeast Georgia would not have survived over these many years without the extraordinary leadership of Lisa Cahill, serving as Program Director, Instructor, and Secretary to the board of directors. Lisa has worked with a variety of populations, but over the past eight years has been working with military veterans suffering from PTSD and TBI. Her desire to work with veterans stems from her own father’s needs. Lisa understood that brave men and women would enlist to serve, and Lisa also understood that these courageous men and women would need resources to heal after their service. To express her gratitude for military veteran community members, Lisa became an Art Therapist to help those returning from war to heal and rediscover themselves after their service. Lisa continues to engage military veterans in healing through art at the Veterans Art Program of Northeast Georgia.