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Artwork Created During Last Year’s Partnerships for Veteran and Military Health Conference

New Art Exhibit Highlights Colorado Veterans

Artwork Created During Last Year’s Partnerships for Veteran and Military Health Conference

Written by Molly Smerika on September 7, 2023

“It’s really important that we come together as a community to support our veterans, and it’s really important that our community understands how to care for them.”

University of Colorado College of Nursing Professor of Clinical Teaching Mona Pearl Treyball, PhD, RN, CNS, CCRN-K, FAAN is finding new ways to help veterans get the treatment they need once leaving active service. One way is hosting the Partnerships for Veteran and Military Health Conference.


CreatiVets exhibit on display at Denver International Airport on the Concourse A’s mezzanine, past the A-Bridge Security checkpoint.

Pearl Treyball is the Specialty Director of CU Nursing’s Veteran and Military Health Care Program and an Air Force veteran. She’s also the conference’s co-chair with CU Nursing Professor of Research Lori Trego, PhD, CNM, FAAN. Trego is an Army veteran, having served as a nurse for 25 years.

The conference started in 2020, focusing on bringing together many different approaches to treatment and caring for veterans, servicemembers, and their families that include a mix of traditional and cutting-edge programs. It features high-profile speakers, expert panel discussions, and veterans’ perspectives on important issues they’re facing. They also offer experiential activities like tours of the Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center and the Marcus Institute for Brain Health, and creative expression workshops.

Last April, one of those workshops was put on by CreatiVets a non-profit organization committed to helping veterans use self-expression to transform their stories of struggle and trauma into different art forms.

“Getting people to be able to tell their story and repurpose their memories so that it creates meaning for the veteran…all of that is so important for our veterans to be able to transcend the trauma they’ve had in going to war and the stresses of being in the military, and all the things they have to contend with,” Pearl Treyball says.

Using Art to Express Emotions

Lieutenant Colonel Nikki Robinson attended the CreatiVets workshop. She’s the Education and Training Flight Commander at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado Springs. Robinson was deployed to Iraq in 2008 and used her experience to create a collage.

Some collages from the workshop are now on display at Denver International Airport. DEN is the first airport chosen to display artwork from CreatiVets.


Lieutenant Colonel Nikki Robinson's collage.

“The red part (on the right of the collage) represents how Iraqi women there were treated like second-class citizens,” she says. Robinson says women would set themselves on fire because they couldn’t see another way out of their situation.

“Women would do this to themselves to bring awareness to their world…it’s just one of the many stories I had when I was over there working in the hospital. I had my family back home… and I’m okay… you just compartmentalize it (what happened in Iraq), and it stays in the Middle East.”

Robinson says attending the workshop was the first time she expressed her experiences when she was deployed.

“Doing something whether it’s CreatiVets or writing or music, it helps you get whatever you’re feeling out and you’re like ‘Okay, I feel better’, and it’s not kept inside,” she says.

She says the Partnerships for Veteran and Military Health Conference is a good way to see all the work being done to help veterans and active-duty military members. She’s gone for the past three years and shares the information she’s learned with her medical management team.

“It’s great learning what’s happening on the VA, active-duty, and civilian sides,” she says. “You see how everything works and how we’re working together to take care of any veteran that needs help.”

The CreatiVets exhibit is in Concourse A’s mezzanine, past the A-Bridge Security checkpoint. The exhibit is on display until January 2024.

The College of Nursing’s 4th Annual Partnerships for Veteran and Military Health Conference is April 25-27, 2024.


Photography provided courtesy of Denver International Airport.