The Medford Arts Center hosted its “HeART of a Veteran Exhibition” on Nov 12 to celebrate the art work of vets displayed at the center’s gallery.
The arts center has hosted the “HeART of a Veteran Exhibition” for three years to showcase pieces created by veterans enrolled in a free art class conducted by Art Smith, Toni Fray and Jill Radwell. The class is an opportunity to explore various types of art and technique and is now held at Protestant Community Church, or the “Cathedral of the Woods,” in Medford Lakes to accommodate growing numbers of students.
Smith, who is one of the instructors for the veterans class, acted in previously proposing to the center the free veterans art program years ago. Before moving to New Jersey, Smith was located in Phoenix, Arizona, where he previously taught art classes and had a similar program. Last year, the exhibition was online because of the COVID pandemic, but this year the artwork was able to be displayed in the gallery live. Smith spoke on behalf of the ‘HeART of a Veteran Exhibition’ stating why doing the program is so special to everyone involved. He also added that in addition to himself, Fray and Radwell feel similar.
“It means something to them, and to see their work highlighted and to get awards for some and to see people come out and look at their work and talk about their work is an important event,” Smith said “It is something that I wanted to make sure, that they had that experience,”
This year, the exhibition was juried by Richard Bell, a lifelong photographer who began his career as a photojournalist and photo editor at two large newspapers. He has served as a senior lecturer at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and is currently working on personal fine art and documentary projects.
He is also the author of the “Last Veterans of WW11,” an attempt to enlighten and remind future generations about courageous men and women who tell tales of fear, grace and sometimes humor in wartime. The event was also sponsored by Capehart Scatchard, Stout & Caldwell and United Communities.
The vets exhibition is meant for gallery visitors to understand the artists’ experience and military service. The arts center’s Board President Pamela Wallenhurst addressed the importance of the event, noting the center values veterans and their contributions.
“It is our hope at the MAC that everyone who enters will be impressed with the diversity of skills that our veterans have,” she said. “Our relationship with them is like an extended family.”
“It (the exhibit) is a joy we look forward to every year,” said center Executive Director Lesha Moore. “The center couldn’t imagine not doing it.
“To have a program that is something joyous and gives them (vets) a way to express themselves … is just a wonderful program,” she added.
Awards for first, second and third place and honorable mentions were announced by Moore and Wallenhurst. First place went to “Laughter” on acrylic by Mercedes Rowe (Army), second place went to “Sunset Study” on pastel on sandpaper by Jay Howard (Army) and third place was won by “Secret Agent Man” on mixed media by Bryan McPee (Air Force).
Honorable mentions went to “Trepidation” on acrylic by Jack Wolynies (Navy), “Flowers for Algernon” digital on archival paper by Joey Harness, (USMC), and “Transportation in Vietnam” mixed media by Yvonne Bivens (Army.) The Wallenhurst award went to “Wrapped Glory” acrylic/chalk/paint/gilded wax on wood by Yvonne Pacheco (Air Force).
Military members interested in the veterans’ art class, can find more information on https://www.medfordarts.com/