Creator Spotlight with Keith Jeffreys of the United States Veterans’ Artists Alliance (USVAA)
This week we would like you to meet Keith Jeffreys, Executive Director of the United States Veterans’ Artists Alliance.
1. Explain what your organization does and tell us about your role.
The United States Veterans’ Artists Alliance (USVAA) is an award-winning, multi-disciplinary non-profit arts organization, founded in 2004 by military veterans and artists. USVAA provides opportunities for veterans in the arts by highlighting the work of veterans in the arts, humanities and entertainment industry along with the contributions veterans have made to the rich cultural history of our nation since the Revolutionary War.
USVAA networks with veterans, artists, supportive individuals and organizations within the arts and veterans’ communities to find funding and support for individual artistic projects in theater, photography, film, television, the visual/fine arts and a wide variety of crafts.
My role as Executive Director is to implement our mission and follow through with our colleagues to ensure they receive, where possible, support for their work, secure employment when available and find additional opportunities to get their work seen by their fellow veterans and the public.
Along with fundraising, coordinating programs and events, I’m tasked with recruiting and developing colleagues in all fields. Subsequently, during the onboarding process, it’s my responsibility to provide all necessary information about our mission and what we can and can’t do.
All USVAA programs are provided to our colleagues, fellow veterans and artists free of charge. We do occasionally charge for tickets to events, but always at a discounted rate to veterans and we have never turned an individual away from an event because they couldn’t afford it.
USVAA is always clear about our mission and the work we do with our colleagues. It’s important to know and I cannot stress this enough: We do not act as managers or agents. We do not take a percentage of a colleague’s sales or charge fees when contacted by a third party for a sale of a written work, art, photograph or when an actor, writer or director is hired for work in television, film or theater.
Additionally, beyond some basic business advice, we are always clear that we do not provide legal advice. Should legal advice be needed, our colleagues should always contact a qualified attorney.
2. Can you talk about the importance of the Arts for Veterans?
Since we started the organization in 2004, we have consistently worked to educate the public about the role of creativity and art in the veterans’ community.
With that in mind, it is equally important our mission be understood as an ongoing process as we continue to build a true artistic alliance with our colleagues that fosters an understanding of the complex relationship of various disciplines to others and other fields. We also strive to inspire confidence in the artists and utilize the individual works to highlight the amazing qualities veterans bring to the field as well as dispel stereotypes about who we are – especially as creatives engaged in the creative economy.
3. What type of services or programs do you offer?
We center our entire program on our colleague listings on the website in a way that both highlights their talents and presents it to the public — and to those interested in supporting their work. In this way we direct our website visitors to the individual colleague websites or professional listings, such as LinkedIn, IMdB, etc., in order to facilitate a closer examination of their work, resumes and work history in their chosen artistic fields. The following is a listing of our additional programs:
The USVAA Writers Workshop Program
Onward Press, USVAA’s publishing imprint. Launched in 2019, USVAA’s publishing imprint Onward Press was established to publish novels, short stories, memoirs, graphic novels, and children’s books developed through our writing program. Additional submitted works are published by veterans outside of the program after a review process. In 2019 Onward Press published Zippo Boys by Dave Lara about his experience as a gay Navy Corpsman during the Vietnam War. A month ago, we published Welcome to Blackwater: Mercenaries, Money and Mayhem by Army veteran Morgan Lerette about his experience as a contractor with Blackwater in Iraq. For more information please visit OnwardPress.org.
USVAA New Works Presentation in Honor of Veterans Day
Each year, we honor our fellow veterans and Veterans Day with our presentation for the public selected works from our writing program. The program consists of five to seven staged scenes or prose works presented by professional actors and fellow veterans at a selected Los Angeles venue including Sony Pictures, The Actors Gang and West Los Angeles College.
Veterans in the Arts and Humanities Day
Recognition of November 1 of each year as Veterans in the Arts and Humanities Day as a way of recognizing the contributions of military veterans to our shared culture through the arts and humanities since the Revolutionary War.
Pen, Brush and Sword
An on-going and ever-growing compendium and listing of military veterans — complete with biographical information — who have made significant contributions to the arts and humanities since the Revolutionary War, as well as to the entertainment industry since the beginning of the 20th century. The listing includes approximately 850 veterans and continues to expand with additional research and added resources to the program.
USVAA and the Humanities
While not a program per se, our inclusion of the humanities in our overall mission is unique to USVAA and provides a foundation for our colleagues to contextualize their military service, the importance of military service and the individual views of military veterans on their own artistic endeavors and those of others.
4. What is your (and your organization’s) interest in copyright law? How does your organization and/or its constituents rely on copyright law to support their livelihoods?
We are always interested in keeping our colleagues and fellow veterans informed about the importance of copyright, copyright law and how it applies to their work. For example, many new or emerging fine artists or photographers may know that the work always belongs to them unless it is a work for hire and they have specifically and contractually assigned the rights to the party that hired them. But we continue to work diligently to make this information broadly known.
We’re also extremely interested in maintaining an up-to-date knowledge base about issues regarding copyright on the internet and in the virtual world as these become more and more important, especially with regard to the growing number of social media platforms and apps.
5. How can the community get involved to help?
There are many things the community can do to assist us. For example, we would welcome a program that specifically addressed these issues with professional guidance that we could list on our website. We would also like to see a conference on the issues of copyright to educate our colleagues and fellow veterans about the issues most important to them.
For more information regarding our initiatives, please contact us at USVAA.org.
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