Chicago — There’s a home in Chicago for the art of war, a space for those who have served to share their stories, talent and trauma.
The National Veterans Art Museum is a space for artists like Dr. Charles Smith, now 82, who said art has helped him heal ever since he was drafted into the Marines and sent to Vietnam at the age of 25.
“I felt that when I got home, that it was necessary to make sure that that legacy of that war was not forgotten,” said Smith, a sculptor. “Especially the most important part of it, that Blacks and Whites fought together. We died together.”
Smith’s combat tour may have been more than a half-century ago, but he says veterans of all ages understand the weight of war.
“You gotta get to the place — not a psychiatrist, not a counselor — but somebody that has buried the burden that you buried, and that way they can counsel you out of it,” Smith said.
Giselle Futrell was deployed to Afghanistan as a Marine when she was 21. Now, she is the museum’s executive director.
“It’s a place to inspire dialogue,” Futrell said. “It’s a place where we can start to talk about the things that are uncomfortable. Human beings aren’t designed to go to those uncomfortable places. But sometimes we have to if we wanna make progress.”
The museum, which was founded in 1981, includes more than 2,500 works of art by military veterans.
“The best thing that the public can do for our veterans is to listen,” Futrell said. “So this is a place of listening.”
Listening to a truth that can both inform and help heal.