The Art of War
This isn’t a story about war, about the wounds—both visible and invisible—that soldiers are left to carry after war, or the trauma that goes hand in hand with being a soldier. You won’t find details of battle or unsettling imagery in this tale. This story is about strength and determination beyond the experience of war; this story embodies the power of self-identity as a veteran. It’s a story of integrating the person that you once were with the person you are now after serving in the US military. It’s a story of the rising phoenix—strength, resiliency, healing and the courage to move on.
Curtis Bean walks into a coffee shop on Broadway and he looks like an ordinary guy. Okay, maybe he’s a little taller than the ordinary guy. He has a kind face and it’s easy to start a conversation with him. An hour later, it is overwhelmingly clear that "ordinary" and Curtis Bean do not belong in the same sentence.
Two pieces of Curt’s identity are brought up immediately: he is an artist and he is a veteran. Curt served two tours with the US Army in Iraq; in 2003-04 and 2006-07. He’s originally from St. Louis and has lived in Colorado for less than a year, which is hard to believe when you find out how much of an impact his project, The Art of War, has made in the community already. His strong connection to the veteran community of Colorado in such a short time is equally as impressive.
As a student at the University of Colorado Denver (UCD) working on his BFA, Curt expresses how great veteran services are on campus and in Colorado in general. Curt currently participates in Boots to Suits, a professional mentoring program at UCD, through which his mentor is helping him reach out to local galleries for potential art shows while looking spiffy. He shares that he finds himself frequently connecting with other veterans on campus and that the shared identity of being a veteran is a powerful and binding force.
In the short time that Curt has lived in Colorado, he has immersed himself in the veteran community, both on campus and beyond. Curt landed here after moving around a bit. He participated in a 7-week program with Denver VA's Medical Center to deal with the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) symptoms he was experiencing after his tours in Iraq. After finishing the program, he settled in Denver and found the inspiration to begin The Art of War Project. Curt talks about how easy it is “to lose yourself in art,” to take a break from your problems, and have a healthy space that allows you release from the past, even if for a short time.
The Art of War Project is a program that offers the sanctuary of art to any veteran or civilian. You don’t need to be Pablo Picasso, you just need to be willing to give it a try. The Vet Night group meets the first Tuesday of every month at the Hope Tank on Broadway. And that’s where the magic begins. Curt provides a demonstration and then encourages others to try it themselves, and to talk openly while creating. Print- making, clay, drawing, you name it. The medium used is not as important as the intention behind the experience. Be sure to check out The Art of War Facebook page. And be sure to stop by on the first Tuesday of the month and give it a try yourself.
Curt spends time at the VA every other week, leading art groups for veterans receiving the same services that Curt himself benefitted from a short time ago. All of this moving and shaking around town and at UCD is highly beneficial and therapeutic for the veterans involved in The Art of War Project. Of equal importance, Curt’s work is creating a network of support and connection for our veterans. Don’t think we are the first to notice this power—you can read more about Curt and his project in this 5280 magazine article or watch this video from a FOX31 Denver.
So, what does Curt have in store for the future, you ask? As you can imagine, his vision is as unlimited as a blank canvas. Metropolitan State University of Denver has approached Curt about teaching a Saturday class, beginning in June. He also plans to work tirelessly to spread his program—not just in Denver—but nationally as well. He hopes to inspire vets in other communities to start similar initiatives. Someday in the not-too-distant future, The Art of War Project may be a nonprofit, serving veterans in an even wider scope. Curt will also continue showing his work in various shows and galleries.
Curt knows that it’s important to give back to the community, and it’s important to give back to veterans; to help create a safety net and support system for the individuals that have given up so much for our country. Curt believes that it is even more important for vets to give back to the community, because it benefits the veterans just as much as it does the community. Here at CCMW, we couldn’t agree more.