Wyoming veterans are creative, and that’s why the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) wants more Wyoming veterans to get national recognition for that art, just like Wyoming veteran Deb Zelenak.

Each year, the Sheridan VA Health Care System co-hosts a local art competition with the American Legion Auxiliary for veterans in more than 100 categories in five divisions. These divisions – art, creative writing, dance, drama and music – cover a broad range of categories to appeal to a wide spectrum of interests. This includes areas like woodworking, jewelry, metal work, leather work, ballroom dancing, hip-hop dancing, vocal solo, instrumental, and much more. 

Last year, Zelenak earned top honors in the needlework and fabric art kit categories. After the local competition, the Sheridan VA staff then submitted her art to a national review board, along with all the other veterans who won first place in their categories. Her art was selected to be shown at the National Creative Arts Festival in St. Louis, also co-hosted by the American Legion Auxiliary. 

What did that mean for Zelenak? A week-long trip to take part in the national festival in St. Louis, which included airfare, accommodations, food and many activities … like a trip to the National Blues Museum, captured in this short video: https://www.instagram.com/p/CrB7CERJ2_U/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link The next national festival will be in spring 2024 in Denver.

Entries for this year are now being accepted. There are two deadlines for you to be aware of:

• June 23 – Want to have your art displayed at the public art show? This is the deadline for when the Sheridan VA needs to receive it for the July 1 KARZ Club Car Show & Rod Run, a massive car show with live music, food trucks and the art show, that will be at the Sheridan VA Medical Center. All veterans are invited to enter their creative work for the art show, though only veterans enrolled in the VA for health care are eligible for the competition.

• September 1 – Not ready to submit items by the June 23 deadline? That’s OK, but the Sheridan VA needs to receive it by this date for local judging, in order to be considered for the national art submissions. Entries can include any work done within the last year, so veterans who already have a creative product that meets the requirements of a category are welcome to submit.

Information on each division is available at https://www.blogs.va.gov/nvspse/national-veterans-creative-arts-festival/ – the local and national competition have the same requirements.

Entry forms are downloadable from the site but Veterans who would like to take part may also email Sheridan_Creative_Arts@va.gov for the submission form. Performance artists should email requesting information on how they submit their entry. You may also contact Recreation Therapy Supervisor Tami Fleshman at 307-675-3312.