Vision Quilt Showcase at NVAM: Creative Community YOUmedia

On September 24, NVAM welcomed Vision Quilt founder Cathy DeForest to the the museum to present and discuss the work made by teens from throughout the city of Chicago during the summer of 2016.  Teens from Woodson and back of the Yards YOUmedia branches as well as the NVAM Teen council and community members gathered to share resources, reflect on the work made by students and hold dialogue concerning the ongoing trend of increased gun violence in Chicago and around the country.

During the showcase, young artists spoke of their personal experiences with gun violence both directly and indirectly.  Students from IMPACT family center shared about the frequency and subsequent frustration with gun violence in their neighborhood while NVAM Teen Council member Camile was moved to tears when she described the empathy and fear she feels knowing that youth and families are being killed in her city through gun violence.

“How many here have been affected by gun violence?” asked Cathy DeForest

Along with youth, community advocates listened and shared inspiration for hope for the future.  A mother of a child killed by gun violence read a poem while others shared insight into community involvement opportunites to make an impact and create positive change.


After the presentation the panels will remain on display at NVAM through the end of the month and then be made available at rallies, community meetings and  public display.  Learn more at

From IMPACT Family Center:

It was an awesome #ConnectedLearning experience for IMPACT Family Center teens to participate in the Vision Quilt program with National Veterans Art Museum and YouMedia @ Chicago Public Library.
The used art in making panels for Vision Quilt to express themselves about #GunViolence.
Here is a photo essay.
Teens have many social/emotional issues and a voice about #ChicagoGunViolence.
Hive Chicago
MacArthur Foundation
Mozilla Foundation
Chicago Housing Authority
Chicago Department of Family and Support Services


Eric Garcia visits the Back of the Yards CPL branch YOUmedia

Teens from the Back  of the Yards YOUmedia visited NVAM in July at the beginning of their summer Creative Community workshop series. Operation Mom’s Couch, a solo exhibition by local artist and veteran Eric Garcia was on exhibition .  Through out the course of the Creative Community workshops, BoY teens made art in response to the NVAM collection as well as in relation to the art made by Eric Garcia including development of superhero characters that relate to personal stories or issues of importance to the teens, developing short comic strips and narratives and designing comic book covers.


These finished projects as well as other works in progress were shared with Garcia when he was able to visit the branch in August. Along with sharing the process behind his work, Garcia shared how his work has developed over time and offered insight into how to work with changing ideas and influences.  Teens and youth in the program used this inspiration to decorate the YOUmedia space by adding their superheroes to the glass windows that make up the walls around the space. Overall everyone had a ton of fun and learned a lot about ways art can be used to share ideas through our personal stories as well as humor.

Rock Your Drop: Drop of Consciousness

The National Veterans Art Museum Teen Council was established in July 2014. Since then, teenage artists have come together to explore art-making, collaboration, the artist practice, and the veteran art movement as a whole. Working alongside artist mentors, the Teen Council members considered how their individual experiences living in Chicago fit into the larger context of promoting peace. The artwork featured includes individual and collaborative ideas in response to peacemaking using installation, painting, graffiti arts, drawing, and mixed media collage. There are specific references to Chicago, using symbols of the city: skyline and landmarks, the Chicago flag, flowing water in reference to the lake and river, cleansing, healing, and rebirth, hands reaching out towards peace, recent articles and text about gun violence, and flowers as symbols peace, tranquility, and purity. NVAM Teen Council uses art-making as an instigator of change and asks the question: How do we come together?


Reaching for Hope
Elias Gallegos & Juanita Rodriguez
Often when we see something shining into the water it gives us a sense of loss or something fading away. Lately, people have seemed to lost their sense of compassion or remorse for others and even their ability to grasp the significance of taking a life. The Drop of Consciousness represents those feelings, so using the necklace as a symbol of these values, I had it sinking as a way to show how we’ve lost these values. The hand reaching in to grab it was a way of showing that we can get these values back if we try to. I want to thank Juanita for helping me paint that water even when she was helping with another project. I also wanted to point out that the lack of skin color was mainly to show the lack of need to identify a specific race other that the human race.



Who You Are Today
Kate Pensamiento and Juanita Rodriguez
My project is addressing issues that relate to being a young adult today. There are many events that have a huge impact on an individual that can change their perspectives. Violent events leave a negative view in their eyes that can make them fear certain parts of the world.  No one should fear life but some people have no other option due to the violence happening around the world.


The Chicago Drop
Joseph Torres
My piece uses 3 separate but valuable symbols: the Chicago skyline, the Chicago flag and the tear/drop of consciousness.  Each individually has its own meaning but the way in which I am presenting them combines the flag with the tear/drop and uses the skyline in the background as a sense of “home.” The drop on the flag represents a universal sense of sympathy for the families of Chicago.  The tear being on the flag is also stating that as an individual we are small, but if we all come together for the sake of the city then we are strong and can overcome the struggles.  The skyline offers relief and harmony. The flag is a symbol of our loyalty to Chicago and being united for a better future.


Celestial Drop on Tragedy
Michelle Duran, Isabella Garza, Grace Deer, Camila Cortez, Jaliyah Lodygowski, Layla Bowling
Our project was made of many complex parts coming together into one unified message and work of art. In one part of this project, a textured gold canvas was covered with building and clouds at the bottom. This was done to represent the landscape in heaven. On a separate canvas, a lotus flower was placed within a body of blood-red water.  This symbolizes hope in the midst of violent conflict.  We considered the meaning of the lotus flower which includes: rebirth, purity and creation. These images are layered on top of one another to add emphasis to the many sections. Our use of 3D and @d was done in order to show that hope exists in the real world, not just in fairy tales.



Drops of Society
Christopher Lopez, Mya Gonzalez, Michael Gonzalez, Layla Bowling, Matthew Gorski
The inspiration for “drops of society” was shootings that have plagued the American society. We used paper machè to create three drops and made three yarn balls filled with articles of shootings that have happened throughout the U.S.  The reason why we made so many drops was to symbolize all the tears that people have cried over these tragedies.


The Rising Rose City
Sema’J Young
I originally got my idea from the internet when I saw a white rose. THe white rose had a black background, so I interpreted the rose as being pure. I took that idea and colored the rose a bit more than half way to say the red rose was becoming pure again. The tear drops falling from the rose causes the rose to lose color which makes it pure again, or it’s rebirth. The drops that land on the city are cleansing the city by making it innocent again. The city is rising from its bad aspects and from the ground. That is how I obtained THe Rising Rose City.

The Healing Flood
Alexis Yracheta
The message behind my watercolor painting is against gun violence. My painting is based on the handful of neighborhoods in Chicago that are facing gun violence everyday. The gray girl walking down the center of the painting represents an unidentifiable nationality, meaning that it can be anyone who can be hurt in these places. The “Drops of Consciousness” are falling from her hands and creating a flood at the bottom of the painting. The flood is then cleansing the neighborhoods from the gun violence. With more people joining the movement or contributing to stopping gun violence, we’ll all be able to cleanse every city from gun violence.


Conscience & Peace
Christopher Funez and Deasija Kelly
As a citizen in Chicago I worry about being safe in my neighborhood. We collaborated together and created a poster to voice our opinion and stop the violence. In the poster, Conscience & Peace, there are different colors, shapes, and sizes of hands reaching towards a tear drop. The hands represent the different citizen ages and genders. The teardrop represents consciousness. The message our piece is sending out is that the Chicago community should attempt to find the conscious to end violence and enforce peace.


Vision Quilt: NVAM Teen Council Panels

NVAM Teen Council participates in a nationwide initiative to create awareness of preventing gun violence by being the first Chicago group to create panels for Vision Quilt. Vision Quilt is a national grassroots community arts project that emerged as a response to the escalation of gun violence in the US. Teen Council members spent two weeks discussing, designing, and creating panels incorporating their personal experiences and views on gun violence in Chicago on evolon using interdisciplinary medias from drawing and painting to spray-paint, sculpture, and collage. These panels along with others created in YOUmedia branches at the Back of the Yards and Woodson Regional Chicago Public Libraries will be showcased at the National Veterans Art Museum on Saturday September 24th, 2016 with a special visit from Vision Quilt Founder, Cathy Deforest.


Matthew Gorski
This panel is important to me because it is about gun violence in Chicago and the need for stricter gun laws.  I do not know what would make one person want to kill another person but if it continues it would be like World War III starting here in our country. If the police and the Mayor (Rahm Emanuel) do something about it, these deaths would stop. More lives will be saved if we have gun laws.


Chris Lopez
My piece is important to me because it it highlights one of the things our society struggles with– gun violence.  It shows a before and after image of a man held at gunpoint and then is shot. I chose the glasses to portray this story as a way to reflect this event and its aftermath and also as a reference to the death of John Lennon who was shot, leaving behind a memory and his glasses, broken and stained with blood.


Mya Gonzalez
DESENSITIZATION: to make someone less likely to feel shock or stress at scenes of cruelty, violence, or suffering by overexposure to such images.

This is 2016.  Everywhere we look there is violence. Whether you click on the hashtag Black Live Matter or go on World Star, violence is seen as something normal. This piece is about how media and the extreme events around us play a role in the desensitization of the human mind. Along with this desensitization comes the behavior of people exposed to it– shooting and killing, not thinking twice of what will happen.  There are peaceful protests, but you also see people throwing rocks and tear gas.  The woman on my panel is attached to the events that end up overwhelming her. Everything she sees slowly turns to shades of grey and black shadows.  She has become numb.


Camila Cortez
Causes of gun violence and its spread through communities varies tremendously. My piece focuses on experiences and media that might cause a growth in the use of guns for taking the lives of others. The plug connected to the photo of dueling gun to the brain and sniper rifle under the head together shows how violence can infiltrate the mind but the blue bullet, fireworks and dove show how the brain transforms the violence, replacing it with something humane. Instead of banning or restricting certain materials from society it is our job to change our minds and educate others on how people in the community should be viewed and treated. All we have is an endless cycle of blame and trying to force others to change. Humanity can’t change until we’ve changed ourselves and think rationally.


Grace Deer
The panel shows how the world is now. Violence is taking over our city and filled with so many read hands. Buildings that are tall enough to touch the sky are destroyed. A pool of blood slowly takes over the city due to the amount of death and crimes. The silhouette of a man stands in the middle of a pool of blood with a tear of blood falling down his face.  He represents a victim’s family member, filled with sadness.  Hand prints are on both sides representing the victims who died in vain.  Overall, violence isn’t the answer.


Elias Gallegos
I used the analogy of a rose to show how violence has greater costs that the act itself, often defacing the world as a whole. I represented that with a simple rose, splattered with blood of whomever was shot with the gun lying on the ground. Something once peaceful and natural is now graphic, violent and dying represented by its leaves and petals blowing away. In a sense, my piece is saying the world itself dies a little with each act of violence.


Jaliyah Lodygowski
I decided to use an image to send a message.  My inspiration for this came from a hunter’s point of view. The message is that there will be chaotic destruction if gun laws are not put in place. In contrast, if we do make gun laws, it can lead to peace and quiet.


Michael Gonzalez
I used the gun on the shield to show that you should only use guns to defend yourself and not to use it for violence. I felt the guns shouldn’t have to be banned because it’s a basic right we have. We just need to have more people have more self-control of guns other than controlling guns. Drawing in not my best medium, so I chose to use clay and then later do an image transfer so it will have 3 Dimensional qualities into a 2 dimensional plane.


Sema’J Young
I originally got my idea from the question, “What could be the cause of human mass extinction?”  Everybody kept saying it is pollution or the sun will burn us to death, etc. etc.… but I think it is gun violence, war and prejudice that will lead us to mass extinction.  If we continue to kill each other then who will be left to continue our reign on earth? It has a deeper meaning than just “stop the gun violence”– it is more “save us from ourselves.”  We are the cause of our own destruction.


Joseph Torres
I envisioned a piece that uses quotes to convey my message, objects to symbolize violence and death and then putting it all together to make this anti violence quilt panel.  The bullets represent corruption and the blue hands symbolize the phrase “hands up.”  Since these are my hands, it shows how I feel towards the topic with the belief that many people should come together as a community to end the bloodshed.  The bullet with the question mark asks “What’s next?”


Alexis Yracheta
The purpose behind my vision quilt is against gun violence that is happening and affecting families all over the country. The image on the quilt symbolizes a faceless girl who is unidentified of her nationality. This is because I wanted to show that anyone from any nationality or gender can be shot. It is not just people of color or white people being killed. It is not one life that matters, it’s all lives that matter.  This is the message behind my vision quilt.


Kate Pensamiento
My inspiration behind my quilt panel was the inner child.  I saw multiple bright colors as a way of keeping oneself happy.  I drew a group of people holding hands as a symbol of coming together, showing love and spreading it to others.  My slogan was “And we’ll rise up” meaning the good will overcome the bad.  When looking at the quilt, remember that the world is your stage and everyone plays a specific part I n your life; whether it’s big or small. We all learn to work, learn, love and grow together in our own ways.


Michelle Duran 
Violence usually begins with some form of hate. Whether it be revenge, envy, or retaliation. The human mind becomes vulnerable to extreme wrath once the mind is obscured from common sense. This project reflects a murderers experience on gun violence. A murders motive is to seek satisfaction and remove the victim out of the picture with bloodshed. In reality the murderer will eventually “see” the monstrosity that he really is. As his hatred averts its focus to himself, he will realize he doesn’t want satisfaction; he wants forgiveness. As his victim lay forever in silence, the murderer is forbidden from ever receiving that forgiveness.


Juanita Rodriguez
My piece for the Vision Quilt is black and white. The letters “S.O.S” stand for “Save Our Souls”. They’re made by different types of guns in order to show how many there are. The border in my piece is made out of barb wire to show that there is no escape to the violence. People want to end violence, but they’re fighting it with more violence. Gun violence shouldn’t be part of the social norm. This quilt piece is to show that we need to put a stop to gun violence. We need to make the world safer so kids can go outside to play and not be scared of getting caught 0r shootings.


Layla Bowling
The message I want to portray with my piece is that America is hurting itself, more than helping it. Gun violence is a war within itself for America. The paint splatter represents the bloodshed in war and how violent, and full of hate war is. The flag is not perfect, the lines are not straight, and the stars are not even stars. America has a lot of things it needs to fix, it is not perfect. The soldier is hurt, he has bullet wounds and scratches, this a very literal representation of how soldiers are disposable to America.


Chris Funez
My piece, We Make the World, is about how every group in the world makes up the world. It doesn’t matter if you’re White, Black, Muslim, a part of the LGBTQ+ community or any religion that you are. So in my piece I’m showing that if we all come together as a whole and stop fighting each other and killing each other we can have peace in the world and we can stop gun violence. In my piece I’m showing that we don’t need violence among all of these groups we can just have each other and instead of killing one another every day for no reason.


Deasija Kelly
As a citizen of Chicago, I worry about my daily safety. To voice my opinion I made a vision quilt that protest against gun violence in Chicago. In the painting there is a gun that is firing four bullets which fall into a pile of blood. Inside the blood there are four bullets and a few other objects that have a connection to gun violence in Chicago. For example the badge in the blood is known as the police because the most recent crimes have been categorized as police brutality. It meaningful to me because others fear for their lives just as much as I do and I want them to know they are not alone.


YOUmedia: Back of the Yards Creative Community Workshops Summer 2016

Summer programming at Back of the Yards will be split between curriculum focused on the NVAM Permanent Collection and the Operation Mom’s Couch Exhibition currently on display and the Vision Quilt project founded by Cathy DeForest of Washington state.

Students at BoY are predominantly Latino, or middle school- early high school age.  According to CPL YouMedia staff, these youth have been regularly and directly influenced by gang and gun violence in the neighborhood which has some of the highest rates of gun related deaths in the city (this is also true of the Woodsen branch in Roseland where we will also be running programs this summer.)

Weekly goals:

  • 15-20 youth engaged per session
  • Create a cohort of 10+ youth that regularly attend weekly sessions
  • Complete weekly as well as full program projects
  • Gather feedback from participating youth, non participating youth and CPL staff weekly
  • Gather data at beginning and end or summer program from participating and CPL staff
  • Weekly reflection by NVAM staff at each CPL location of programming
  • Document and share on NVAM Outloud as part of working in the open model


  • NVAM Staff: Christine Bespalec-Davis
  • Materials provided by
  • NVAM
  •  CPL
  • Vision Quilt
  • Funding staff hours
  • Hive
  • CPL- Non funded partner in development of YouMedia programming around the city of Chicago to underserved neighborhoods
  • Beginning Summer 2016 to 3 branches
  • Expanding in 2016-17 school year and following summer

Expected outcomes for youth as they engage with the NVAM Curriculum:

  1. Greater understanding of teh real impact of war through th eeyes of those who were there.
  2. Learning to look- utilizing teh NVAM permanent Colelction adn current exhibitions to interpret meaning and the ways in which art shares a story unique to the artist and to the audience.
  3. Meet artists actively sharing stories through art making
  4. Feel confident in sharing ideas and stories through artmaking

Expected outcomes for youth as they engage with the Vision Quilt Project:

  1. Students will view Vision Quilt panels made by a variety of people and reflect on the impact of gun violence on their personal lives and in their communities
  1. Students will generate possible solutions to preventing gun violence through short visual and written exercises, followed by discussion.  These activities will allow students’  voices to be heard and introduce the power of art to create dialogue and social change
  1. Students will create their own 18 x 24 panels, with modeled, guided support.  These Vision Quilt panels will be displayed and celebrated at the Camp Sweeney Open House on June 24, 2016
  1. Students will offer ideas on how to involve their families in making Vision Quilt panels in the future

Inspiring kids about the Vision Quilt:

The Vision Quilt is a national grassroots project using the power of art to prevent gun violence.  You will be  creating panels for the Vision Quilt using spray paint, drawing, painting, stencils and the power of writing, with visiting artists to help.

No art experience is needed.

Your Vision Quilt panels will be displayed at the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago in the fall of 2016. Panels made in Chicago will stay in Chicago and be displayed in libraries, community centers, and places of worship. 

Logistics: Students will participate in 8+ sessions of 2 hours each. The model for each session will follow the model of:  Look, Dialog, Make.

June 28- Session 1 NVAM Curriculum

Introduction: NVAM Permanent Collection and Operation Mom’s Couch

Youth are introduced to the NVAM permanent collection and especially Operation Mom’s Couch.  Slideshow from online sources nvam website, nvamoutloud and Eric’s website.

Impact:Art of the Comic Book Cover

  • Looking more closely at examples of comic book covers by Eric Garcia
  • Students break down the elements that make a successful  comic book cover and design a sketch for a super hero comic book tat include: name, superpower, mission , location , etc
  • Finished drawings were hung up in the space.  Proposal tp make the windows of the space into a comic book emerged
  • Prep for Field trip

July 5- Session 1 Vision Quilt Curriculum

  • Kris shared links to research and learn more about the Vision Quilt and the AIDS quilt
  • These links are meant to help teen understand the inspiration behind their project and provide inspiration for preliminary sketches.  Next session will show examples of the VQ and begin more directed drawing and development

July 12- Session 2 NVAM Curriculum

  • Review visit to NVAM
  • Surveys completed
  • Show examples of VQ—look at any sketches of ideas
  • Begin plan for comic book windows!

Summer Wrap up:

  • Finish Quilt– document and critique
  • Meet with Eric Garcia-
  • Critique comic panels and add art to the windows!
  • Prepare for Vision Quilt Showcase at NVAM

Summer Intern: Joe!!

Initial Reflection/Response: 06/30/2015

Upon entering the National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago, my interest immediately skyrocketed. The halls, doors, counters, walls, and floor, basically every foot of the museum, were filled with vivid, eye catching artwork. The collection is comprised of artworked created and published by Veterans from several wars, such as Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Several youth programs from the surrounding communities are brought to NVAM in order to actively engage students in multimedia and visual art projects. Students work with mentor artists and Veterans in order to raise awareness of the Veteran community and culture, via expression of unique and supportive art.

As a new intern with NVAM, I will help organize and educate students in the NVAM Out Loud Teen Council. In this program teens learn about leadership, career skills, and exhibition installation, all while creating powerful artwork and seeing the ‘behind the scenes’ of the museum. As an intern, I expect to aid in planning academic lessons for students, organize student activities, coordinate and prepare for such activities, and facilitate student work and reflections. Through these roles, I hope to gain some awareness as well. Not only do I hope to be more aware of the Veteran community and culture through art and expression, but I also hope to become aware of how students react to such expressions. I would like to notice how they react emotionally to both what the Veterans have to say and what they show them. Are they surprised? Do they feel angered, happy, or sad? Do they care? I would also like to notice their physical reaction. What do they have to say? Do they want to respond somehow? How the

students respond to a topic that may be a bit violent, saddening, troubling, or even not well ­known at their age, will be an interesting and insightful experience I am sure.

I am confident in saying that the past four weeks spent with the
students from Teen Council at NVAM has been a luxury. I am truly
grateful for experiences I had and the lessons I learned. I did not
know what to expect when beginning this internship, so I was
determined to remain open-minded and engaged. The artwork and
artifacts exhibited at NVAM are, in my opinion, essential to the
education and expression of veterans artwork and the veteran
community. The exhibit is mind-blowing, to say the least. I was lucky
enough to meet and work with several of the artists and NVAM staff.
Their experiences and lessons are fascinating and worth listening to.
I will surely remain in contact with them so I can continue learning
from them. I am also grateful for the opportunity to work with such an
intelligent and hardworking group of teens. The students in Teen
Council proved that they had what it takes to think critically and
work hard. The projects they have worked on in the past and continue
on today have such an impact. They have the opportunities to not only
engage with veteran artists, but also the community at large. I hope
that I left at least a minor impact on their lives, considering they
left such a large impact on my own. I hope to see what they will
become and do in the near future.

Best Regards,

Joseph R. Zolper


IMPACT Family Center: Flowers for Peace Project

Early this summer, NVAM Education welcomed teens from IMPACT Family Center who participated in a Creative Community workshop with veteran artist Stuart Hall.  IMPACT and NVAM Teen Council members worked with Stuart to learn more about his art practice and what inspires him to make art.  Primarily, they learned about his art intervention work called fleurs de guerre (flowers or war) and participated in making these poppy inspired flowers as well as consider where they would place these flowers as symbols of peace.  IMPACT shared what they did with their flowers after the workshop as well as a film they made that reflects their experience at NVAM and with Stuart.


I place this flower at Impact Family Center because peace brings unity and Impact Family Center has a way of bringing people together as community.
I put this flower on my couch. The reason why I have put this on my couch is because this was a couch my grandmother gave to my family, and she passed away. I cherish this couch, and value it.(JPG 51-215 Sent in Previous email)
Every individual deserves to live a prosperous and healthy life full of blessings; the lighting was too bright so I couldn’t take a picture with the words showing. (JPG 7209) 
I decided to place my Poppy at Robichaux Park , located on 9247 S Eggleston. In July a neighborhood friend was shot at this park 2 days before his college orientation, and died. I have a lot of friends that still go to this park , along with little kids. This is why I placed my Poppy here. This is a place where peace is needed.
I place this flower here for peace because we need better lives and better people that’s not killing each other over they most craziest things in the world. 
I put this flower on my couch. The reason why I have put this on my couch is because this was a couch my grandmother gave to my family, and she passed away. I cherish this couch, and value it.
My  flower will be placed at Altgeld Park, on the West side of Chicago.  I practice football here in the mornings and there is a large homeless community.  When I walk from the train, you see a lot of them in the stands of the football field just waking up.  I place the flower here for peace in these peoples’ lives as they struggle living every day.

These flowers represent the love that we need to share the world because in order to be peaceful, you have to be loving and spread love to everyone and everywhere.

I put my flower on the stairs to show my steps to greatness.

The Invisible Population- a film by Monique at Free Spirit Media

The Invisible Population is a short film that explores the complicated role of women historically and currently serving in the military.  The film offers insight into veteran affairs and the special needs of women serving our country while offering insight into what is and can be done to aid our returning female veterans.


Summer 2015– Teen Council!

This summer is off and running with a new set of expectations and challenges!

First– WHERE will Teen Council be taking place??!!  We have outgrown the space we used last year and the main gallery space needs to be utilized as, well, a gallery space!  So now what??  While visiting an empty store front where NVAM will be hosting the After School Matters Cross-Regional Art Exhibition on Aug 14 (save the date!) it occurred to me that this was a lot of unused space that would be AWESOME for filling with art in the making!  Thankfully, the building owner agreed! As he put it– if we never say yes to crazy ideas, where would we be?

The move in was…challenging…but now, with 2 weeks under our belt, the impact of this new space is starting to be felt!  New and developing art is on the walls in our open critique space, we have an inspiration wall and our social contract hung proudly for all to see and we are utilizing an old chalkboard wall to keep our schedule on display (so we never miss break time!).   The teens are moving past their initial shy phase and are making meaningful observations and making big plans for the rest of summer!  Starting next week, we begin a 2 week collaboration with veteran artist Stuart Hall. The potential is tremendous. I LOVE SUMMER TEEN COUNCIL!!!  (Stay Tuned!)

NVAM Volunteer and Vietnam Veteran Ned Ricks: Revisiting the 10th Calvary, Vietnam 70-71

“When I first viewed Ken Howard’s collection of pictures, it was as if I had encountered a long lost cousin or brother and started sharing memories. We would start with, “Do you remember the time we…” And we would  end up nodding and  smiling, not so much at what had occurred, but more from the experience that someone else had the same memory, the same album of experiences and impressions in their mind as well. His work took me back over forty years to bring some of those memories to just yesterday.”

-Ned Ricks

Ned Ricks, along with being one of our most dedicated volunteers at NVAM, is a retired Major of US Army Reserve and served as the Commanding Officer of  Troop C, 1st Squadron in the 10th Calvary in Vietnam from 1970-71. We are honored to have this video as a testament to the service of Ned and his squadron. We would like to thank Ken Howard for sharing this video with us and giving permission to share it online.

National Veterans Art Museum at the Chicago Childrens Museum at Navy Pier

Tell Me a Story I DON’T Know!
NVAM Education workshops at the Chicago Childrens Museum at Navy Pier

The art in the National Veterans Art Museum collection showcases the memories, experiences and histories of our nation and the veterans who have served to protect it.  Each work of art shares the unique stories of the individual who made it and provides the opportunity to start a conversation resulting in a deeper, more meaningful learning experience. The art brings history to life through the eyes of those who lived it.  For our younger audiences, the museum is careful to select age appropriate art from our collection that allows children and their families access to understanding and exploration of veteran voices through art.

In March, NVAM was excited to have the opportunity to work with young artists and their families at the Chicago Children’s Museum.  The Tell Me a Story I DON’T Know!  workshops  invited museum visitors to share stories while creating a portrait of one another.  The workshop theme was inspired by the 100 Faces of War Experience and the process of meeting and speaking with each veteran the way Matt Mitchell did over the course of his 9 year project.

Check One, Two!

The National Veterans Art Museum celebrated African American History Month with our “Check One, Two!” free emcee workshop hosted by USMC veteran and artist Mel L.Workshop attendees explored voice projection, creative writing, and freestyle rhyming in our interactive gallery space, marking the second successful creative community workshop in February.

Hearts for Vets: Creative Community Workshop with Veteran Artist Eric Garcia


Our first creative community workshop, “Hearts for Vets,” where participants made prints for loved ones, or to be sent to Hines VA, was a huge success!(Pictured above): top left: students work hands on with the printing press.
top right: Workshop leader and veteran artist Eric Garcia gives a demo.
bottom center: prints and other artwork from the workshop being hand-delivered to Hines VA.

Veterans Arts On Air: Education Edition

In January, I was asked to be the guest on the NVAM CanTV show Veterans Arts On Air with host Melvin Lyons.  We spent the 20 minute show talking about the exciting work being made by NVAM Teen Council and upcoming events at the NVAM in 2015.   One of my favorite parts of the show takes place at minute marker 11:00 where I share a favorite experience meeting a veteran who is a part of the 100 Faces of War Experience Exhibition which opened on Veterans Day 2014 and is on display at the NVAM through May 2015. These interactions with the veterans and artists is part of what makes our museum unique and builds meaningful conversations about the role of art making in building community and intergenerational relationships between youth and veterans. Check it out!

PS– being on TV is exciting a fun– I highly recommend it!


Reflecting on war, art and history: London, 2014

Spending time in London has served as a poignant reminder of how war can create indelible marks on the landscape and collective memory of a country.  This year marks the 100 anniversary of the beginning of Britain’s involvement in the first World War. Through out the city there are monuments, art displays and other tributes to the soldiers who fought to defend Great Britain.  One of the most powerful is Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, an installation at the Tower of London where the ceramic artist Paul Cummins and stage designer Tom Piper have installed 888,246 ceramic poppies within the Tower’s famous moat and pour over the castle walls. Each poppy represents a British military fatality during the war and serves as a massive visual reference to the tremendous loss of life during this conflict.  Each poppy has been sold to the public to raise millions of pounds to be divided among 6 UK charities that support veterans and military families.

Another powerful body of work was a collection of photographs revisiting sites of conflict from the first World War.  Fields of Battle, Lands of Peace  is an outdoor touring exhibition and educational resource center featuring 60 large scale photographs capturing the World War landscapes as they are today. “Based not on the horrors of war, but how time and nature can heal the most scarred battle landscape, the exhibition seeks to engage every community in the First World War commemorations, via an extensive tour of UK cities and town centers between 2014 and 2018,”  the duration of Britain’s involvement in the conflict. (Michael St Maur Sheil, artist).

Seeing these artworks reminded me how fortunate we are an Americans to have not seen a war fought within the United States since the Civil War and how art can be used to transform powerful narratives into lasting reminders of history and heroism.


-From Oct 22-27, NVAM education was honored to travel to London on behalf of Hive Chicago to represent NVAM at Mozfest

Teen Council goes to the Chicago History Museum!

What happens when you take 15 teens to the Chicago History Museum?

First of all– I was impressed by the connections and insight that the teens made in regards to engaging with history and their role in the results of important social political and cultural events that impacted our city as well as the country as a whole.

We spent time looking at photos in the Vivian Maier exhibition which captures the streets and people of Chicago in candid, everyday happenings.  These photos highlighted important historical events like the Democratic Convention of 1968 and the race riots following the assassination of Martin luther King Jr., but it also showcased the day to day moments that reveal the true life of the city.  Both themes were recognized and admired by the teens who could recognize neighborhoods and contemplate how these events affected the lives they are living today– both similar and different, complicated and commonplace.

This sentiment continued in our viewing of the Exhibition 1968 which showcases the overwhelming multitude of events and trends of the year that shaped the future of our country, still evident today. From these events, teens were asked to focus on one that really stood out or grabbed their attention. This event will be used as inspiration for an art project we will be working on in the coming weeks looking at identity, history and looking into the future. Additional questions included what did you learn today?  Who will you be in 50 years? What will you remember and what will have changed? to supplement generating ideas for a reflective art project.

Teen Council made a list of things they learned during their trip. Here are a few highlights:

> The largest population of young people were entering college and being drafted (baby boomers) a major drive of the energy of the 60s.

> If Robert Kennedy was not assassinated he would probably have been elected president.

> The first Miss Black America Pageant was held, giving black women a chance to role model and represent their beauty.

> Don’t put ketchup on a Chicago Style Hot Dog




A week without teens…..

It’s been a quiet week here at NVAM. I came in Tuesday in a rush to get things done by 1pm only to realize that the program had ended and I wouldn’t be greeted by the usual sounds of rummaging through art materials, shaking of spray cans and all the smiles and laughter I looked forward to every afternoon. *sigh* The work space is still filled with all the residual art making bits and pieces– sketches and practice pieces, folders of notes and idea maps.  I MISS OUR TEENS!!


The good news…… August 14 we will it will be #25memories part 2 as we showcase all the amazing art made by the teen apprentices at the Destination Chicago event at the Chicago Cultural Center from 11am-3pm!! (come by and visit us!  We are showing tons of work and the blog right next to our partners YouMedia!)


AND!!! Teen council will start up in September! Woo hoo! Stay tuned for details! (and email if you or someone you know is interested in signing up!)

YOUmedia: They Things We Carried

Way way back when it was cold in Chicago (winter-ugh!)  YOUmedia was working with NVAM teaching artist Carolyn Hoerdemann making art in response to our permanent exhibition They Things They Carried, inspired by the book of the same name written byTim O’Brien.  This coming September we will be unveiling a new TTTC exhibition with digital and hands on interactive components, art and artifacts paying tribute to those who served in Vietnam and continue to serve today. Take a look back at some of the artwork and interactions made by YOUmedia teens in early 2014.

(Follow these links!