To secure Veterans the necessary resources to design and construct public art as a means to
(1) process and interpret their experience of war
(2) engage collaboratively with fellow service members to accomplish a mission
(3) connect with opportunities in art, design and technology fields
(4) create a lasting tribute to the service members and families who sacrificed so dearly
In Southwestern Pennsylvania, known to have one the larger concentrations of United States Veterans, a diverse group of community leaders, health scientists, and Veterans came together in 2011 to explore an innovative approach to addressing issues facing transitioning Veterans. While recognizing the military, VA and organizations across the country primarily focus on healthcare, rehabilitation and job readiness and equal fundamental need is being overlooked. The necessity to “continue to serve” and have a “mission” is not being fulfilled. After conducting a national survey of Veterans programs, OVArts was found to be the only non-therapy-based cultural arts and design program for Veterans.
OVArts is committed to helping Veterans who are transitioning into civilian life, demonstrate their exceptional abilities with uncommon ingenuity, adaptability, and leadership skills. By completing a project with OVArts, our Veterans employ these skills while interpreting their unique experience of war. The process of creating the public art also provides an outlet to the Veterans and can mend a gap by providing better understanding from the public of the sacrifices and experiences of our servicemen and women.
The OVArts model is built on teams of Veterans with diverse backgrounds and skills – art, construction, welding, carpentry, technology, photography, video and communications. Working in conjunction with professional artists, the teams study, design and build site-specific projects for local and federal government entities, universities, hospitals and corporate partners. OVArts links Veterans with vocational, technical, and post-secondary education depending upon the unique needs of each team. To accomplish this, OVArts is working with several committed partners including TechShop Pittsburgh and Pittsburgh Technical Institute.
Each team that completes the OVArts program produces a unique public artwork built by Veterans, for Veterans.
OVArts had its beginnings in a Pittsburgh-based partnership between artist Allyson Holtz and Randy Castriota, president of Castriota Metals and Recycling in McKees Rocks. In 2008, while developing a public art project with incarcerated youth at a state facility, Holtz enlisted Castriota Metals’ sponsorship in the fabrication of an outdoor sculpture for Jamison Hospital in New Castle. Holtz and Castriota went on to partner on a community public art project, funded by the Pittsburgh Foundation and partnering with the Father Ryan Arts Center of McKees Rocks, called Folded Hands: Bridge to Peace.
Following this project, Shepherd’s Heart Veterans Home asked if Holtz would be interested in working with Veterans in the realm of public art. Both Holtz and Castriota have a strong family tradition of military service, which inspired them to pursue the project. The two met with academics, elected officials and Veterans groups to assess the need for public art created by Veterans, for Veterans. Congressman Tim Murphy (R) and Dr. Rory Cooper were particularly instrumental in these early discussions. Congressman Murphy is the only psychologist in Congress and, as a member of the Naval Reserves, counsels Veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at Water Reed Bethesda Hospital. Dr. Cooper serves as Director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratory (HERL), a joint venture between the University of Pittsburgh and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. This early research demonstrated the need for a non-therapy-based art and civic engagement endeavor for transitioning Veterans.
In response to this need, Operation Valor Arts was founded. OVArts was incorporated in 2011 and received its 501(c)(3) status in 2012, with Holtz as Executive Director, and Castriota President of the Board of Directors. Together, they continue to develop a committed network of supporters and an OVArts Board membership comprised of male and female Veterans who serve in the community as lawyers, entrepreneurs, academicians, communication and marketing strategists, design professionals and technology experts.
Allyson is the Co-Founder of Operation Valor Arts. A sculptor and painter, her work has been has been exhibited in museums, galleries and other venues in Manhattan, Washington, DC, Pennsylvania and throughout New England. Her monumental Corten steel sculpture, Star and Sea (25’ x 12’x 12’) is now in the permanent collection of the Lyman Allen Museum, CT. Creating community arts programs has been central to her creative practice. Holtz is the principal founder of the award winning Hygienic Art Inc. (New London, CT) that began in 1979 as a yearly art event and now permanently resides in a renovated landmark building housing artists’ studios and public galleries with an outdoor sculpture garden and amphitheater. After moving to Pittsburgh in 1996, she introduced the Hygienic model to the City’s Lawrenceville neighborhood: today Art All Night is in its 18th year and provides a venue for over 2,500 artists. Among her awards is a 2004 New Works/Residency Grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Randy is the co-founder of Operation Valor Arts, and the President of both Castriota Metals and Pittsburgh Roll-off Service. He is also cofounder of the nonprofit Future Champs Boxing Gym in Wilkinsburg. Randy is inspired by the military service of his parents, Alphonse and Rose Ann, during World War II. You can read more about his numerous charitable endeavors in his full bio, here.
Board Vice President
Dan Fisher is the Assistant Chair for Administration and Operations, Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, RST, at the University of Pittsburgh. He retired from the U.S. Army Medical Corps, where he held several prestigious positions at Army hospitals. You can read his full bio here.
John is a partner in the Pittsburgh office of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti, LLP, where he serves as Co-Chair of the Cyber Liability & Technology Law Practice Group. While serving in the U.S. Marine Corps, John served as trial counsel for 10 jury trials to verdict and more than 20 bench trials. In 2007, he served as the Battalion Judge Advocate in Fallujah, Iraq for 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6. You can read more about John’s professional and military career here.
Christina is a landscape architect and graduate of Chatham University. A former Army officer, she served in Operation Iraqi Freedom with the 9th Engineer Battalion (Combat) on two tours in Iraq. Her graduate education in the design field of landscape architecture was a major part of her successful transition from military to civilian life, and she is committed to helping other veterans achieve their dreams.
Board Chair, Marketing
Andrea Krushinski is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and served as a Surface Warfare Officer during Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF)/Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). She later worked as a civil servant as the Operation Security (OPSEC) Officer of the Navy from 2004-2007 in Norfolk, VA providing planning, guidance, support, and training for all Navy units afloat and ashore. She holds a certificate of legislative studies from the Government Affairs Institute at Georgetown University’s graduate program. After moving to Pittsburgh, she began her second career as a Marketing professional for the voice-technology company Vocollect. Currently she works as a Marketing consultant in the greater Pittsburgh area and focuses on the non-profit sector.
Board Chair, Budget Committee
Clark is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, and is currently the Design Group Administrator at AE Works. He has more than five years of supervisory and management experience. He graduated summa cum laude with a degree in business administration focusing on management, and earned an MBA concentrating in Operations, Marketing, and Strategic Management.
Board Chair, Nominating Committee
Richard is the Founder and Executive Director of Space Challenges, Inc., a nonprofit with the mission to promote STEM education through competitions using space exploration as inspiration. He also works in a consulting role for several startup companies in Pittsburgh. Richard was the entrepreneur-in-residence at the business consulting company C-leveled, and part of the first class at the startup incubator Thrill Mill while working as CEO of Private Lender Nexus. He spent eight years in the U.S. Army conducting Psychological Operations with two deployments to Iraq. Richard holds an MBA from Seton Hill University and Bachelor Degree from the University of Pittsburgh.
Board of Directors
Father Regis Ryan, a priest of the Catholic Church, was ordained on May 14, 1966, by Bishop John Wright at St. Paul Cathedral in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood. His first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. John Fisher in Churchill where he served from June 1966 to February 1970. He also taught at St. Thomas High School in Braddock. He served as parochial vicar at Annunciation on Pittsburgh’s North Side from February 1970 to May 1975. From May 1975 to February 2000 he served as chaplain at Ohio Valley Hospital in Kennedy Township. From February 2000 to April 2010, he was part-time parochial vicar at St. John of God in McKees Rocks.
In May 1975, he became the director of Focus On Renewal Center in McKees Rocks where he served until April 2012, and director of the Sto-Rox Health Center where he still serves. Father Ryan has been actively involved in the Albert Schweitzer Advisory Board, Area Health Education Center Board, Children’s Cabinet Allegheny County, Community Care Behavioral Health Board, Consumer Health Coalition, Coordinated Care Network, Family Support Policy Board, Healthy Start Board of Directors, McKees Rocks Community Development Corp. Board, National Federation of Priests Councils Board, Operation Valor Arts Board, Association of Pittsburgh Priests Steering Committee, Sto-Rox Plaza and Rx Council.
He advises future clergy to “get involved in the community beyond the parish.” Father Ryan retired from active ministry in April 2010, but still serves at St. John of God and is very active serving the community of Pittsburgh.
Board of Directors
Noël is an architect, artist, and arts project manager. He has worked in the architectural field for over 25 years in the US, Canada, and on numerous international projects. He is a registered architect in New York State, is LEED certified, and resides in Pittsburgh with his family. Noël views that his living in different countries and travelling extensively has exposed him to a diversity of art and architecture that has been a tremendous benefit to all of his endeavors. See his full bio at: http://s3.otherpeoplespixels.com/sites/51240/cnoelkennard.com-1440607419.pdf
Board of Directors
Adele is the Manager, Major Giving at the United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Her responsibilities include developing and managing relationships with specific major donors and prospects. Prior to her current position, Adele had a long successful career in pharmaceutical sales and account management with exclusive focus on the Veteran’s Healthcare System and Military Treatment Facilities across the country. Additionally, Adele is certified as an English Second Language tutor and volunteers at the Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council as well as the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.