In 2010 I answered an ad for a job at the Walter Reed MWR Arts & Crafts Center on the Forest Glen Annex. In the nine years since, I’ve moved through changes in location and contracts and leadership and employment and job title, expanding the community-centered arts program at Walter Reed Army Medical Center then Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Ft Belvoir Community Hospital. In these nine years, I’ve learned a lot about what community means, about service to others, about the power of honest communication, and the value of art-making as a tool for thinking deeply, and facing ourselves compassionately.

I’ve led writing and art workshops with tens of thousands of Service Members, Veterans, Military Family Members, and healthcare providers. Through strong relationships with VSO’s and the thriving and generous DC arts community, I have helped curate more than 100 opportunities for Service Members to exhibit, perform, and publish their work.

Through all the shifts in contracts and funding, I didn’t always know who exactly my boss was, but I always knew who my client was: American Service Members and their families. Whether in the lobby of the Malone House Hotel at WRAMC, the Warrior Cafe, the USO Warrior and Family Center, in various clinics, waiting rooms, or bedside, what has mattered most to me has been holding space for people to overcome the isolation of physical and mental illness by connecting with others through art making.

In the past two years, the Rec Arts Program has moved under a new directorate and it has become clear that the needs of the population and the goals of those in leadership are at direct odds, and that to serve one I must betray the other. There is no choice. My true North has always been the Service Members who answered a call to serve this country, and who deserve to be heard and supported by the American civilians they swore to protect. I cannot in good conscience support the censorship, silencing, or withholding of services from the many people who need and deserve them.

I have had the blessing of extraordinary colleagues and teachers in this work, across departments and professions, who have supported their patients heroically, and without whom my non-clinical work could not have thrived. Together we have published case studies, welcomed award-winning artists as guest facilitators, and have cheered so many incredible people on as they’ve returned home and reclaimed their own stories. I am grateful to all of you, and I am proud of the work we have done together.

And this is not goodbye. With the continued support of clinical colleagues, and in collaboration with VSOs and the American people, I’ll return next week with a different badge, doing the same thing I’ve done from the start, as a program of Community Building Art Works.

There is work to be done, and with your help, I will continue to do it.


Seema Reza



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