Saturday, November 11, 2017

College Community Art Project for Veterans Day

I've written a lot of blog posts about Veterans Day through the years.  This post, which considers Armistice Day and the changes brought by World War I, is one of my favorites.

This year is the first year that a Veterans Day celebration for college students has been completely up to me.  I thought about all the things we could do, all the things that have been done at other schools where I've been:  wearing red, white, and blue to show our support of the troops seems to be one of the most common ways to celebrate, probably because it costs no money.  I thought about a cake.  I thought about some sort of declaration.

In the end, I decided that I wanted some sort of display.  We had a red board sitting vacant, so I asked if I could use it before it became the Career Services Wall of Fame.  I was given permission.

I went to a school supply store to get some bulletin board border--it's not as easy to make a border as it looks!  And then I made a sign for the middle of the board:

We sent out an e-mail that gave the same invitation as the board:  we asked people to post pictures of their favorite veterans and/or to post notes of appreciation.  I decided to start by posting this picture of my dad, during Navigator school, in 1962:

And then I waited to see what would happen.  I was slightly worried that my addition would be the only one:

On the very day that we sent the e-mail, we got 2 photos sent to us electronically.  And then, throughout the week, more pictures and stories arrived.  By the end of the week, the board looked like this:

I have gone by the board numerous times.  So have the students--it's on the way to the parking lot.  I've noticed people stop to look.

I am so pleased with how this experience worked out.  It gave people a space to pay tribute, but it gave privacy to those who can't celebrate in very public ways.  It honored those who served, without being preachy about all the prices that we pay for this service.  It grew organically, without dictates from the people in charge; in the past, I've been uncomfortable with the ways that we've been ordered to pay tribute.  I especially like the participatory nature of the project.

I've been part of many community art projects throughout the years.  They satisfy my creative urges in such a different way than the art I create in solitude.  I like creating these kinds of creative opportunities for my campus--it's one of the favorite things I do as an administrator.  This one felt especially important, so I'm glad that it went well.

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