The Artists/Veterans Art Collaborative was started in 2010 by neighbors with a shared interest in supporting veterans. Artist and author Jackie Albarella and Iraq war veteran Dan Fronter, teamed up with VA therapist, Jim Becker, to provide a venue for vets to process post deployment tensions. Since the group’s inception, they have served over 500 men and women whose war experience dates from the Vietnam war through and including current conflicts. Even years after returning home, the feelings still haunt many vets; art is an excellent vehicle for processing those feelings.
An exhibit of the Veterans’ art opened in the WNED Horizons Gallery on Thursday September 7th at 5:30 p.m. One of the pieces in the exhibit is a quilt called “Hand to Hand”. The quilt was hand crafted by the veterans, their families and artists in the group. It is made from different patterns that represent the differences of the individual members of the Collaborative. On the quilt, there are hands which represent our ability to reach out and help each other in community.
The exhibit includes woodworking, collages and paintings. The eight artists in the exhibit share the experience of serving our country. There are also shared feelings including fear, hope and joy which the artists bring forth in their work. Through the process of creating art, the veterans have been able to express complex feelings. According to Vietnam veteran, PTSD sufferer, and artist Kevin Mulvey, “I use the process of creating art to release emotions and it always helps.” His wife mentioned that he has converted their garage into a studio where he stores materials mainly driftwood collected on the Lake Ontario beach.
Ralph Sirianni supported veterans as a creative arts therapist for thirty-eight years. A Vietnam Veteran himself, Sirianni has a broad perspective to draw from.
His painting called P.O.W. begs you to look at the emaciated body and hollowed out eyes. Other pieces by Sirianni include a broad overview of the systems of treating veterans, including a depiction of a chess board called “Strategy for Surviving the Day”. According to Sirianni, “There is no winner or loser in this game. The battle rages on.”
One of the artists, James Becker, is currently deployed and so he mailed his piece to curator Jackie Albarella. Some of the pieces are available for sale and potential buyers can contact Albarella at Jackie@jackiealbarella.com. The Veterans art show will be open for viewing until the end of October during WNED business hours. Any veteran interested in joining the Veterans Art group that meets monthly at the Birchfield Penney can look on the art gallery’s website for more information.
After the art opening, WNED had a private screening for Vietnam Vets of excerpts from the Vietnam War. The ten part documentary was filmed by Ken Burns and Lyn Novick and will be aired on WNED-TV beginning Sunday, September 17th at 8:00 p.m.. Vietnam Vets are invited to share their experience in the online archive: wned.org/television/the-vietnam-war.
Veterans’ post deployment challenges include loneliness. They might create their art alone, but when they hang it on a wall for public viewing, there is a sense of pride, a joy to witness. When veterans heal, it serves us all.