Who We Are

The United States Veterans Arts Program is a non-profit 501c3 tax-exempt organization based in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. Our mission is to increase the representation of veterans in the arts community by providing art resources to Veterans Administration Medical Centers and through artistic presentations, create audience-based conversations and interactivity that reflect on military service and the veterans who served.

By encouraging and supporting an aesthetic response to military service, we emphasize the unique diversity of military veterans and create a new identity for veterans as artists, altering the view of veterans as always in need of healing. Through community collaborations towards arts programming, we engage our audiences to reflect on what it means to serve in the military (historically and present day) and the unique experiences associated with that service. 

The USVAP grew out of founder James-Kimo Williams’ experiences as a soldier in Vietnam in 1970. Through playing his guitar to cope with the war and forming a band with fellow soldiers to perform at remote firebases and hospital wards, he realized the power of music not only to entertain, but also to soothe soldiers experiencing the stresses of combat. His desire to share his experiences through the arts was inspired by a 1998 trip to Vietnam that enabled him to discover truths about himself as a soldier and as a citizen of the world that he returned to after the war. After returning, he created ArtSynergy, a non-profit organization dedicated to creating collaborative arts projects that facilitated opportunities for art expression between Vietnamese and American artists and programming arts presentations that engaged audiences to better understand the cultural dynamics between Vietnam and the United States.

With Carol Williams, also a veteran and musician, he reemphasized the mission in 2009 to provide art resources to Veterans medical facilities so other veterans might use art for personal expression and changed the name to the United States Veterans Art Program (USVAP).

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What We Do

We are doing much-needed work to empower veterans and create social awareness of their experiences and talent. The Department of Veteran Affairs’ Center for PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) reports that 30% of Vietnam veterans have suffered from PTSD, and 11-20% of veterans of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom and 12% of Gulf War veterans have PTSD in a given year. PTSD rates lessen when service members and veterans sense social support for the conflict in which they are engaged. If our society accepts the need for war and receives the benefits of being defended, it must provide care for those who ensure its security. Care is not strictly defined as institutional aid; moral, verbal, emotional, and community support are also needed. USVAP aims to increase public awareness and support of those who have and are serving in the military by developing arts presentations that engage audiences to have a better understanding of the military veteran and acknowledge publicly the intelligence, ingenuity, and capability of veterans.

We meld contemporary veterans’ issues with community-based support to highlight the importance of developing (through our Artistic Tools program) and recognizing veteran’s participation in society and culture. By supporting an aesthetic response to military service through performances, we educate the public about the contributions and struggles of veterans and provide a unique perspective for veterans as people who have a wide and eclectic societal pallet that might alter the ways in which they see themselves and are seen by the public. 



Who We Serve

Our programs targets veterans, individuals and organizations sensitive to the needs of active service members, families of service members and veterans, and members of the public who seek a better understanding of the challenges of military service and the contributions of veterans. Each year, we serve approximately 500 people through our various initiatives.

Our Artistic Tools program provides art resources such as paint and brushes, musical instruments, and cameras to veterans by working in tandem with professional therapists within veterans’ medical facilities who care for veterans daily or through outpatient programs.

Our art exhibits and music presentations work to educate the public, empower veterans to create through art, and also bring veterans and their communities together through common understandings. In presenting these programs, we partner with VA Medical Centers, academic institutions (through curriculum intergration), military installations and veterans organizations to ensure we are reaching our audience with our message.