Anthony A. LoBue stared death in the face.
Given a second chance, the ebullient and articulate Army paratrooper was reborn as the warrior-artist Tony the Vet. Now he fights for military veterans.
LoBue is a Nuclear Age Renaissance man with the wisdom of a sage and the energy of a high school cheerleader. He is a veterans advocate, visual artist, poet, playwright, educator, entrepreneur and practitioner of the healing arts.
A disabled combat veteran and former SWC student, LoBue left his mark on the campus by co-founding the Student Veteran Organization in 2008. He is now using his rich background to bring creative arts programs to veterans, active military and their families at the Veterans Museum and Memorial Center in Balboa Park.
“After surviving some death-defying health issues, (it) gave me an opportunity for great introspection,” LoBue said. “I decided that it was time for me to do what I love and love what I do and to combine all of those things.”
As a disabled veteran, he said he has felt the impact artistic expression has on physical and emotional healing.
LoBue is the founder of the Arts for Veterans Project (A4V) to “engage, educate, employ and empower veterans in the creative arts.” This currently includes writing workshops, improv lessons and 3-D art.
“We have veterans who suffer from visible or invisible wounds,” he said. “Regardless of what the psychiatrists do with their meds or what the doctors do with their scalpels, nothing provides the veteran, or military members, or the spouse, or the kid with the opportunity to engage in art making for whatever the purpose, for pleasure, profit or healing.”
LoBue partnered up with the iconic Veterans Museum on Park Blvd. to provide space for artists to participate in creative programs throughout the week. He is actively seeking participants and arts instructors to share their gifts with the veterans community.
Nancoise Doudiet, an interior designer and SDSU graduate, was the art instructor at the first Creative Arts for All workshop. Her father was in the Navy and she said she has a deep connection to veterans.
“I’ve always wanted to work with veterans,” she said. “So when I met Tony at an art show I was in, I got his card and contacted him.”
Doudiet said she recognized as a child she had artistic abilities. Her creative gifts grew up with her. As an adult she realized her passion could be a source of emotional healing.
“When my son died it took me about five to eight years to decide how I could express my anger, love, confusion about his death while paying homage to his life,” she said. “All of my art has some sort of pain, humor or anger in it.”
Her experiences resonated with the efforts of Arts for Veterans to provide workshops to vets.
“Art is not only great for veterans, but for anyone who has a hard time expressing themselves,” said Doudiet.
LoBue said he is actively spreading the word throughout the San Diego County arts community. His first “Creative Arts for All” had a low turnout, but LoBue and Doudiet said they are hopeful that once people hear of the program they will participate.
LoBue recruited Daniel B. Foster, a museum director and artist, as a participant at the Arts for Veterans bronze casting workshop.
Foster is a multimedia artist and painter who spent 30 years perfecting his craft behind closed doors before finally debuting his art at a pop up gallery in Long Beach earlier this year. He was featured at SWC’s Inside Out art exhibit curated by gallery director Vallo Riberto. His decision to create in total reclusivity and get in tune with an art free of any outside influence has afforded him a unique perspective on the power of art for spiritual revival.
“I’ve been weighing the possibility of what I can do with the targeted population of veterans with the power of art to heal, and I actually think it’s a spiritual path,” he said.
Foster speaks of healing from experience.
“It was a very healing thing for me at the time when I was defining who I was and making sense of the world we are in,” he said.
LoBue has extended an invitation to the community to get out and exercise its creative muscles. Anyone willing to volunteer or donate materials or expertise to veterans are encouraged to participate. Interested volunteers can log onto the Veterans Museum website for workshops and activities.
“We invite you to come by with that big idea that you’ve been waiting to share with the rest of the world,” he said. “And we’ll see how we can implement it.”