Ryan Spencer Reed
The anchor exhibition for ArtWise 2015 was internationally-acclaimed photojournalist Ryan Spencer Reed's award-winning photographic and audio installation at Urban Edge gallery from 9/11 through Veterans Day. Reed was embedded with the 101st Airborne Band of Brothers through training, deployment to Afghanistan and the soldiers' return home. The photographs he took while embedded speak to the experiences of young soldiers when we send them to war on behalf of our country.
“My aim here is to bridge the gap of understanding between those who have been through war and those who haven’t. It is about raising the level of debate that our veterans need all the help we can offer them when they return home to identify avenues to a life of fulfilling purpose after combat.”
Reed's project spans two and a half years of documentation of one Army battalion – the Band of Brothers. In the aggregate, 61 images convey, myth, reality, and glimpse into the scope the idea of enduring freedom.
Sounds of war, captured audio by the artist, bombard at a low-grade whisper where specific signals are nearly indistinguishable amidst the fog of war.
The body of work was unveiled at ArtPrize 2014 in the Grand Rapids Art Museum and was was selected by the public as one of the top finalists out of 1,536 entries. The same body of work was recognized by Pictures of the Year International for World Understanding. In addition, Reed was voted the winner of the Leica Oskar Barnack Public Award 2015 by a wide margin. He was one of 50 photographers from around the globe in the running out of 1,689 entries and one of only two from the United States.
"The Art In War” exhibition at the Waukegan Public Library featured photographs from Benjamin Busch, an acclaimed author, actor, artist and former commanding officer in the United States Marine Corps. The photographs were taken during Busch's deployments during the invasion, occupation and liberation of Iraq.
The photographs explore themes of war and memory by focusing on ephemera, from torn posters to bloodstained walls. It’s a gripping exercise in evoking a particular time and place, made all the more powerful by the photographer’s presence as an officer in the war he is documenting, blurring the line between observer and participant.
“I tried to record Iraq as its past was dissolving and its future uncertain. Photographs allow me to hold on to what I notice as I pass through time and place. This collection is a condensed rearrangement of my selected memory from 398 days in Iraq. It grants me the right to assign longevity to impermanent observations. I am often drawn to record fragile evidence and temporary debris for this reason. [They depict] moments that cannot occur again. What I photographed there has already been repainted, burned, or discarded. I only had one chance to take a photograph of any moment there. These are the chances that I took.” -Benjamin Busch
VETERANS ART EXHIBIT at Courthouse
Karcher ArtSpace Lofts displayed the oil paintings of Richard Laurent, an art instructor at Columbia College Chicago who served during the Vietnam War. Laurent was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reporting to the agency chief who was credited with the discovery of Russian missiles in Cuba during the Kennedy administration. His tour of duty involved monitoring the Ho Chi Minh Trail and various missile sites around the Middle East. Prior to leaving service, Laurent was assigned to assist the curator of the Pentagon Art Collection.
His painting of “Norm” depicts Norman Jefferson who served in the Army in the Persian Gulf campaign during WWII. He was one of a select number of American soldiers chosen to guard the motorcade containing Churchill, Stalin and Roosevelt en route to the Yalta Conference.
ARTISTS OF KARCHER ARTSPACE LOFTS
KIDS RANK & WAR DOGS MAKING IT HOME
The Greater Waukegan Development Coalition hosted artwork from children of military families depicting veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), and their rescued service dogs. Through the hands of children, based on photographs taken of the actual veterans and their service dogs, featured childrens' drawings showing how our beloved heroes are coping with daily life post deployment.
Kids Rank provides military children a sense of stability through interactive group learning experiences. War Dogs Making It Home is a two-year program of service dog training and ongoing group support at no cost to the veteran. By pairing veterans with rescue dogs they help train to be their service dogs, they are able to better manage the invisible and lifelong challenges of PTSD and TBI.
"THROUGH THE HANDS OF CHILDREN: VETERANS AND THEIR SERVICE DOGS"
The Waukegan History Museum displayed a special exhibit from the collection of the Waukegan Historical Society’s archives. On special exhibit was the photography of Albert Klein. Klein, a graduate of Waukegan High School, learned the profession of photography from his father, Herman, who owned North Shore Studios at 4 N. Genesee Street.
During WWII, Klein was commissioned as a lieutenant and served in the US Army Signal Corps as a combat photographer. Klein served in North Africa directly under Colonel Darryl F. Zanuck, founder of movie studio Twentieth Century Fox. Two of the four Klein photographs on display pertained to the North African campaign. After the war, Klein returned to Waukegan and became the first photographer to be certified by the Northern Illinois Professional Photographer’s Association. He remained a commercial photographer in the city until 1965.
ARTISTS OF DANDELION GALLERY
VETERANS ART EXHIBIT at Undercroft Gallery
The Undercroft Gallery is a cooperative effort among Christ Episcopal Church, The Lake County Art League, and Lake County Arts Magazine. The Undercroft Gallery celebrated Veterans Day with a November show of art by military veterans and military art by others.
Bowen Park Theatre Company
Bowen Park Theatre Company performed two plays based on the events of September 11, 2001:
The Guys by Anne Nelson, Directed by Jason Clark. A play written soon after the terrible events of September 11. Nick, a New York Fire Department captain, is left with the task of delivering eulogies for the eight fallen firefighters who perished during the evacuation of the World Trade Center. Overpowered with emotion and unsure what to say, he secures the assistance of a journalist who helps him craft eulogies to honor not only his men who died, but also everyone who lost their lives that day.
The Mercy Seat by Neil LaBute, Directed by Jason Clark. This play was among the first major theatrical responses to September 11. Set on September 12, it concerns Ben, a man who worked at the World Trade Center but was away from the office during the attack, with his mistress, Abby. Expecting his family believes that he was killed in the towers’ collapse, Ben contemplates using the tragedy to run away and start a new life with his lover.
Soldier's Heart by Tammy Ryan, Directed by Doug McDade. Before heading off to war in Iraq in 2007, USMC Assistant Commander of Convoy Security Casey Johnson neatly organizes her life into a box of lists, envelopes and registration forms for her son’s activities. Nine months later, she returns psychologically paralyzed by PTSD, deeply haunted by the memories of what she had to do – and by what was done to her.
Playwright Tammy Ryan takes us through vivid re-enactments of the Iraqi conflict, ending her drama on a hopeful note even as she states that our Veterans deserve better.
THREE BROTHERS THEATRE
Two Rooms by Lee Blessing, Directed by Caroline Beadle. A moving and poignant piece of modern drama about love, politics and war. Two Rooms was named the “best play of the year” by Time Magazine in 1988. Written by playwright Lee Blessing nearly 30 years ago, Two Rooms may be more relevant in 2015 than it was when it was first produced.
A civilian journalist is captured and held hostage by terrorists. The play tells a very personal story about how the isolation and loneliness of the hostage in a cell in Beirut, and the suffering of his wife, in her self-imposed isolation. Meanwhile, the media and the government attempt to deal with this dire situation.
Acclaimed writer, actor and artist who served as a commanding officer in the United States Marine Corps discussed his Debut-litzer Prize-winning memoir Dust to Dust at the Waukegan Public Library on September 17. The poetic memoir travels an elegiac path through Busch’s childhood, adolescence, and service in the Marine Corps, including his two deployments to Iraq.
Michael Pitre, who served as a communications officer in the United States Marine Corps through two tours of duty in Iraq, discussed his acclaimed novel, Fives and Twenty-Fives on October 8.
The novel has its roots in Pitre’s experience as a Marine stationed in Iraq, but it is not autobiographical in the sense that it is based on actual events that occurred during his deployments. Rather, Pitre approached his idea of writing a war novel by telling a uniquely fictional story inspired in part by the Iraqi interpreters who were essential to the Marines’ work. The “fives and twenty-fives” of the title are frequently the measure between life and death for a Marine, referring to the meterage sweeps for roadside bombs hidden in potholes.
Kirsten Holmstedt, writer and expert on female members of the armed forces, discussed her acclaimed book, Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraq on November 5.
The book recounts the stories of twelve American women serving in Iraq, with a forward by Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Holmstedt’s book offers journalistic insight into the experiences of American servicewomen, featuring the stories of soldiers, military policewomen, and nurses. Winner of the Military Writer’s Society of America Founders Award and the American Authors Association Golden Quill Award, the book represents a look into the sometimes universal, sometimes unique challenges faced by service women.
Benjamin Busch presented his award-winning narrative short film BRIGHT at College of Lake County in Grayslake on September 16 and Waukegan Public Library on September 18. The screening was followed by remarks by writer, director, producer Busch with an audience Q&A.
“BRIGHT is a still-life painting brought to life. It is exquisitely shot, lovingly paced. The intense emotions play delicately on the faces of the actors, building to a subtle, well-earned catharsis. BRIGHT is art.” -Ed Burns, Writer/Executive Producer – HBO’s The Wire, and Generation Kill
Visiting guest artists gave a number of educational talks at various venues targeted to specific audiences across the Lake County community, including:
- "A Conversation with Ryan Spencer Reed" at College of Lake County on September 3. Reed previewed his award-winning military photography exhibit, discussed his motivations for covering war zones as a photojournalist and shared his process for long-form storytelling.
- Benjamin Busch presented "The Art In War" photographs and shared his experiences from his two military tours in Iraq with arts council members and guests at Waukegan Public Library on September 16.
- "A Conversation with Benjamin Busch" at Naval Station Great Lakes on September 17. Busch met with NSGL military and their families sharing his experiences in Iraq and reading from his award-winning memoir Dust to Dust.
- Benjamin Busch spoke at the POW/MIA remembrance ceremony at Capt. James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center on September 17. He later met with an inspiring former WWII POW Army Veteran who is 98 years old to tell his story.
- Benjamin Busch spoke with JROTC leadership and cadets at Waukegan High School on September 18.
- Benjamin Busch spoke with Waukegan High School arts and humanities students over three separate periods on September 18.
- Ryan Spencer Reed was a guest speaker at Jack Benny Middle School for three separate classes of communication students on November 10. It was the first time the school has had a guest speaker.
- Ryan Spencer Reed spoke with 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students from Most Blessed Trinity Academy at Urban Edge gallery on Veterans Day.
ALATS DANCE CLUB
Alats Dance Club presented a dance tribute to "Those Who Serve" on November 6 and 7 at the Sign of the Dove. The tribute honored the men and women who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces through the art of dance and featured young performers from age 6 to young adults with original choreography by Cory Ratliff and Anisa Diaz.
ALATS Dance Club provides quality dance instruction to young people in a safe and Spirit filled environment, where they are built up and encouraged to be effective communicators through movement.
Proceeds supported Pure Love Uganda - a place for kids out of the slums of Kampala that encourages them in life skills and rebuilding their own lives through love and movement. The kids from Uganda also performed a special dance tribute to "Those Who Serve" choreographed by Cory Ratliff which was showcased via video during the ArtWise performance.
Navy Band Great Lakes Brass Ambassadors
The Navy Band Great Lakes "Brass Ambassadors" performed a free concert at Christ Episcopal Church on October 25 in collaboration with ArtWise honoring "Those Who Serve." Established in 1982 and comprised five brass instrumentalists, the Brass Ambassadors have performed throughout the Midwestern United States.
Veterans Open Mic
Green Town Tavern with the talented Sipos & Young hosted two special Veterans Open Mic nights on September 24 and October 22 dedicated to performers who are Veterans.
Two Soldiers and a Marine
Two Soldiers and a Marine, an American veteran-owned company, brought their mobile food truck to Waukegan outside Urban Edge gallery for the October 17 ArtWauk. It was a big hit, drew people to the art events and they nearly sold out of everything.
Veterans History Project
The Lake County legal community participated in the Veterans History Project again this year. On Veterans Day, 2015, 30 veterans from WW II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War came to the Lake County Courthouse for a reception and ceremony and to have their oral histories recorded by official court reporters. The typed transcripts were archived at The Library of Congress for use by researchers... and to inspire and educate both current and future generations about "Those Who Serve." Over the past three years, 70 war veterans have come to the Lake County Courthouse to share their personal stories. We were proud to participate in the reception, share information about ArtWise and engage with these inspiring veterans.
Veterans Hiring Events
The Job Center of Lake County and Illinois Department of Employment Security worked collaboratively to provide free workshops at the Waukegan Public Library for Veterans and employers. A Veterans Resume Boot Camp on September 30 helped Veterans prepare to seek jobs, and the Employ Illinois Veterans session was geared toward employers to help companies successfully recruit, hire and retain Veterans.
We believe that it is our moral imperative as a society to create positive outcomes for our Veterans and this was one way ArtWise helped contribute to that outcome beyond raising awareness and improving understanding.