Dear Friend of Arts Orange County,

What is it that makes Arts Orange County stand out in a community well-served by world-class arts organizations that produce and present the arts and provide outstanding arts education?

For some, it's our 30-year-old Imagination Celebration, a month-long festival of arts for families and children. For others, it's the inspiring talks given by brilliant speakers in our annual Creative Edge Lecture. There are also many who have taken note of the leadership role Arts Orange County plays in managing important public art projects, in helping cities to develop plans to improve their local cultural assets, in providing valuable consultation to arts institutions and higher education, and in advocating for increased arts education county-wide.

But the most compelling story I have to share with you about our recent work concerns a disabled veteran named Alan.

Alan was a participant in a pilot program Arts Orange County conducted in which we invited war veterans throughout the community to share their stories of life in the service and back home. In partnership with Veterans First and The Chance Theater, we brought together more than a dozen local veterans-from a 102 year old woman who served in the Army during World War II in the Manhattan Project to a 25 year old veteran of Afghanistan-over the course of six weeks to compile stories about their experiences and to learn how to share them with an audience-which they did on Veterans Day at The Chance Theater to a sold out house.
The veterans recounted combat experiences, spoke about the reception they received upon returning home, talked about how proud they were to serve their country, and discussed the challenges they faced adapting to life after the military. Their true-to-life stories were heart-wrenching, funny, insightful and always inspiring for those who were privileged to witness this performance.
During the Q&A that followed, one audience member asked the veterans on stage how the experience of participating in this theatrical storytelling project had affected them.
Alan responded that, since arriving home from Vietnam, he had always been consumed by nightmares and had never been able to sleep through the night. But in the last two weeks, this had changed, and for the first time in decades, he was sleeping peacefully. There wasn't a dry eye in the theatre after he confided this.

As an arts-lover, you have experienced personally the power of the arts to uplift your emotions. As a supporter of arts education, you understand how the arts inspire and motivate young people. It should come as no surprise, then, that the arts also have the power to heal veterans like Alan.
This was one of the proudest moments of my 40 year career as an artist, producer and manager, and it is an example of something that would not have taken place in our community without Arts Orange County--and without those who support our organization.
Thank you for your gift. It will be used carefully and is greatly valued.
Richard Stein
Executive Director
Photo: Leonard Ortiz, Orange County Register