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Veterans’ Art Museum marks Nov. 11 with play and art exhibit

Wed, Nov 13, 2013

Benjamin Suarez, Self-Portrait - The Vietnam Vet, tight cropThe National Veterans Art Museum (NVAM) will commemorate Veterans Day on November 11 with a program and the opening of two events: the art exhibition Esprit de Corps and the 7:30 p.m. world premiere of the play, “Veterans’ Voices.”

Dr. Jack M. Bulmash, M.D., chief of staff at Hines Veterans Administration Hospital, will give the keynote address at 6 p.m. Bulmash joined Hines in 2007 as associate chief of staff for geriatics and extended care after a 30-year practice in the private sector. He served in Vietnam as a battalion surgeon.

NVAM Executive Director Levi Moore said of his role as keynote speaker, “We welcome Dr. Bulmash to speak directly to issues of art therapy and therapeutic art and their potential for helping servicemen and women grow and develop following their military experiences.”

Esprit de Corps is French for “spirit of the body,” and in the military context refers to the capacity of a group of people to pull together persistently in pursuit of a common purpose. Featuring art by veterans of Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, Esprit de Corps traces the process and roles of therapeutic art from the act of initial perception, through expression of experience, to an ultimate communal sharing and understanding of the real impact of war. The exhibit continues to Aug. 1, 2014.

Featured artists in Esprit de Corps include Vietnam veterans Joe Fornelli and Ted Gostas and post-9/11 veterans Jerry Frech, Jon Hancock, Peter Sullivan and Erica Slone.

“I found myself surrounded by negativity, sorrow, and yes, drama,” Frech said. “Without a lot of options to get away from all of the negativity, I escaped the only way I knew how: art.”

Slone, a six-year USAF veteran who served multiple deployments in the Global War on Terror, will have an open studio as artist in residence. “I have spent the past five years researching military veterans’ experiences and making art around bridging the disconnection between veterans and contemporary civilian society,” Slone said. “Veterans Voices” is produced by Erasing the Distance (ETD), a company that sheds light on mental health issues through theatre, in collaboration with students from The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. The play focuses on mental health issues facing servicemen and women, veterans, and their families. Five true stories are performed as monologues:

Jonathan Hancock, Pan SearedAshley loses 26 men in her unit in Iraq. She comes back punching holes in walls and driving her motorcycle recklessly before realizing something is wrong.

Paul comes home from Vietnam. Years later, after he retires as president of a major retail corporation, he feels the impact of PTSD.

David loses people close to him in Vietnam and struggles to make sense of it for nearly 40 years. Finally, the right therapist opens the door.

Nicole experiences Military Sexual Trauma (MST) several times during her service as a Marine. Although she speaks up on her own behalf, the response is dismissal and blame.

Vanessa’s brother comes home with PTSD after his third tour in Afghanistan. Bureaucratic red tape keeps him from the support he needs.

A moderated, interactive dialog between the cast and audience will follow each performance. Dr. Grady Garner, PhD., a retired officer and member of ETD’s mental health advisory board, is working with the cast in preparation.

There will be no admission charge on November 11 to the NVAM, on the second floor at 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave. Light refreshments will be offered from 5 to 9 p.m. “Veterans Voices” will be performed in Filament Theatre’s 1st floor space at the same address.

Remaining performances will be Nov. 12, 13, 18, 19 and 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door and $10 for students/seniors/groups at veteransvoices.brownpapertickets.com. Free tickets are available for veterans and active military, if reserved in advance. NVAM will be open free to the public from 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. all performance days except November 18.

Suzanne Hanney
From Prepared Materials

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