Veterans Book Project exhibition Mar. 27-May 12
By Miroslava Illasova
UW-Parkside Communication Major
The University of Wisconsin-Parkside is a place where something is always going on. There are many projects that UW-Parkside students are a part of, but one in particular provides an inspiration to multiple departments and connects the community with the university.
The Veterans Book Project is the first-hand representation of what the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq mean to not only the soldiers but also to us. People affected by these wars put their thoughts and experiences on paper creating stories full of raw emotion that allow people to see the conflict from other than the commercialized perspective. Each of the books is created in close collaboration with Monica Heller, the project author, who travels around the country building this library of books.
As Patricia Briggs, gallery director at UW-Parkside said, "We are all a part of this whether we realize it or not. The two wars impacted the lives of all of us either through personal experience or the media exposure. We all perceive it differently, but we all have a certain reaction to it. This project is about our portrayals and thoughts about the two wars."
The project neither supports nor opposes the wars, but rather raises important questions through the complex voices of often-conflicting messages provided by the ones affected.
UW-Parkside students became a part of the project and took it a step further by creating a theatrical script. A group of 10 seniors, with the supervision and direction of Professor and Chair of the Theatre Arts Department Lisa Kornetsky, came together and read the total number of published books under the Veterans Book Project, pulled what they found striking and profound, and created a coherent script for presentation.
"We were able to wholly and individually reflect upon our own interpretation of what war is and does to the soul, and we were welcomed to share our own stories of friends and family involved in the overseas affairs," said Alecia Annacchino, one of the contributing students. "For us as theatre people, we find that our perspective of war has been constructed almost entirely in a Hollywood sense - almost fictionally - and this project allowed us to broaden our horizons in being understanding souls by hearing stories, and telling others about what's been seen and experienced. We learn by telling stories. It is in this project that we hope our audience does the same."
The diversity of this project provided an inspiration that students could personally take and apply directly to their majors. This not only shows the flexibility of students when applying the skills learned in a classroom to a real-life situation, but also demonstrates the value of community projects being brought to UW-Parkside.
The UW-Parkside students are also going to expand the library by one volume as Carey Watters' graphic-design class creates its own book, sharing their perspectives and ideas about the two wars. This book is still in progress and will be a demonstration of the students' capabilities to connect their skills in the classroom to real-life situations. Once finished, the book will become a part of the Veterans Book Project library.
The entire library of books will be exhibited and available to the public from March 27 to May 12 in the UW-Parkside Foundation Gallery as well as the Carthage College Gallery, Racine Art Council's ArtSpace Gallery and the Civil War Museum in Kenosha. The entire library of books will also be available to students in the UW-Parkside library thanks to funding from the Fine Arts Committee and UW-Parkside Library.This project is not only an opportunity to hear from people with first-hand experience about the two wars, but to also witness the stories behind people's personal opinions and the unique way in which art can express complex feelings.