‘WarFront/HomeFront’ exhibit opening Friday
CHESTERTOWN — For its first exhibit in its newly renovated building, the Kent County Arts Council will honor veterans by displaying their artwork.
“Here’s a great opportunity to use art to help people better understand someone’s experience in the military,” said John Schratwieser, co-director of KCAC. “When we talk about the United States going to war, we know our whole county doesn’t go to war, it’s our military that goes to war, and they see things that we won’t ever see and experience things that we civilians won’t ever experience.”
The exhibit, titled “WarFront/HomeFront: Through the Eyes of Our Military,” includes veteran and civilian work expressing military service and war through paintings on recycled military uniforms turned into paper.
The gallery’s grand opening will be from 5 to 7 p.m. First Friday, Nov. 3 at the KCAC building, 101 Spring Ave. in Chestertown.
The exhibit also can be viewed during the council’s gallery hours, from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays; from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sundays.
“It’s basically a collection of a couple of different organizations and outreach programs,” Schratwieser said. “Essentially the bulk of the work in our show is going to be work on handmade paper made by veterans on active duty service who are actually recovering at Walter Reed or family members of veterans and service people.”
Schratwieser along with curator Tara Tappert, founder and principal of Arts & the Military, and Michael Fay, founder of the Joe Bonham Project, have been collecting pieces for the gallery.
Schratwieser will take over as director of the arts council when Leslie Raimond retires in December. Raimond has been the director since 1991 and has been an advocate for many aspects of art in Kent County.
Continuing Raimond’s legacy of bringing art to the community, Schratwieser began planning the exhibit by reaching out to his longtime friend Tappert about her collection of artwork by veterans.
Schratwieser said he met Tappert when he was director of Maryland Citizens for the Arts. He said he and Tappert were working with veterans who had returned from the Afghan and Iraq wars. The veterans had been artists before they had gone overseas and wanted to get back into their art.
Tappert said she first learned about programs that helped facilitate the creation of art with veterans in 2009. At the time, she felt “absolutely compelled” to collect the pieces and display them. She said she now refers to the pieces in her collection as “ARTifacts.”
According to KCAC’s website, themes for the paintings include “patriotism, national- ism and perceptions of duty, suffering, heroism and loyalty.”
“Here’s an opportunity use an art form to allow those veterans to convey their experience and maybe make a better connection to the civilian population and maybe help us better understand the experiences they had while overseas,” Schratwieser said.
Contributions to the collection come from various grassroots veteran art groups including Button Field Paper, Combat Paper Project, Peace Paper Project and Veterans in the Arts, as well as the work of individual veteran-artists.
Later in November, KCAC will hold two additional events including a poetry reading and an illustrated lecture.
The poetry reading titled “Medic Against Bomb: A Doctor’s Poetry of War” will begin at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 12. Frederick Foote is a retired U.S. Navy physician who served in the Vietnam War and has 29 years of service. For the past 15 years, he had been working to create holistic medicine programs for wounded warriors and veterans.
The illustrated lecture “Beyond Stereotypes: War, Warriors and the Creative Arts” will be given by Tappert and Fay at 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19. It will focus on World War I and combat artists.
Schratwieser said KCAC will continue its mission of bringing art to the community and starting conversations in the community with its spring exhibit, which will focus on the opioid crisis. He said the focus of the upcoming exhibit is to “use art to break down the stigma of addiction and to open up avenues of conversation.”
“Art can really play a role to create conversations and get people who might not otherwise be talking to each other, to talk to each other,” Schratwieser said.
Painted on recycled military uniforms turned into paper are veterans’ depictions of their experiences in a war. These images are part of an exhibit at the Kent County Arts Council that will open First Friday, Nov. 3.