National Veterans Art Museum

In continuing this week’s theme of unique ways the individuals and groups are honoring veterans, I’m going to write today about an art museum designed by veterans, for veterans. Opened in 1981, the National Veterans Art Museum (NVAM) is a non-profit that “collects, preserves and exhibits art inspired by combat and created by veterans,” with specific emphasis on Vietnam. Originally called the Vietnam Veterans Art Group, the NVAM was started by Vietnam veterans and was originally a touring exhibition, only becoming a permanent museum in 1996. The museum began incorporating the works of veterans of other wars in 2003 and officially changed its name to the National Veterans Art Museum in 2010. On Veterans Day last year, it moved to its current location in the Portage Park neighborhood of Chicago.

If you’re in the Chicago area, the museum is open Tuesday-Saturday from 10am-5pm and admission is FREE (though donations are, of course, accepted). If you are, like me, a little further away, you can check out much of what the museum has to offer using the links below.

Current exhibits:

– Esprit de Corps – Recently opened on Veterans Day 2013, this exhibit will run through 1 Aug 2014 and features art from nine veterans, from Vietnam, OEF, OIF and GWoT. You can get a sneak peek of the artists’ works by clicking on their names under the “Current Exhibits” section.

Veterans’ Voices – This is a seriers of performances by Erasing the Distance focused on the mental health issues facing military, veterans, and their families and offered at the museum through November 20th. Parents with children can also watch a performance as part of a “Family Cultural Night,” where parents and children can walk through the museum and then children can make their own art at a free workshop while their parents view the performance. You can view a short trailer about the performance on the Erasing the Distance website at: http://www.erasingthedistance.org/what/artistic-season/veterans_voices/

– Tenacity and Truth: People, Place, and Memories – This is a collection of painting, sculptures, drawings and photographs. You can see some of the art and hear the words of the artists here: http://www.nvam.org/current-tenacity-truth-people-places-memories/#more-587

The Things They Carried  – This is a permanent exhibit inspired by Tim O’Brien’s book of the same name. You can take an “interactive” look at this exhibit online. Here you’ll get a glimpse of beautiful poetry, such as “The Soldiers” written by a S. Sgt Hayward B. McIntyre of the “31st Cmbt. Spt. Group,” or get a little lesson on hand grenades. http://cargocollective.com/thethingstheycarried/#

– Black History Month – This is an online exhibit of art created by “black veterans from Vietnam through the present.” You can take a look here: http://www.nvam.org/black-history-month/

The Above and Beyond Memorial – This exhibit is currently not open to the public as it is being prepped for a traveling tour but you can see photos of it online and it is, as the website states, “spectacular.” You can get a glimpse of it at http://www.nvam.org/above_beyond/

You can also look through the collection online, alphabetized by artist name. I did and I found several of the art pieces to be incredibly captivating, such as Vietnam veteran Jim McJunkin’s photo “The Sentry,” the “Angel in the Desert” sculpture and its story by Persian Gulf War veteran Marcus Eriksen, and “(un)clothed and in her right mind” by former Marine Iris Feliciano, to name a few.

If you are interested in contributing to the collection, be prepared to provide your contact information, images of your art, and a copy of your DD-214.

For more information on the National Veterans Art Museum, go to www.nvam.org

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