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Documentary Highlights Local Veterans’ Relationships with Art

Taijuan Moorman Taijuan Moorman Documentary Highlights Local Veterans’ Relationships with ArtVeteran Veronica Shields was interviewed by Columbus College of Art & Design students about her military service and her artistic practice. Photo by Stephanie Wott.
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Earlier this year, 28 Columbus College of Art & Design junior and senior film and video students were paired with 21 veterans in the Veterans Affairs Central Ohio Healthcare Systems’ Veteran’s Arts Initiative. Through CCAD’s partnership with the program, students in video, podcasting, and animation classes interviewed veterans to tell their stories. Now that project is turning into the documentary film Re-story: Transforming Veteran Stories into Art.

The documentary is set to debut Nov. 13-15, 2020 as part of an abbreviated version of the National Veterans Film Festival, which will return in full in 2021. The documentary will be released as part of a virtual film screening and panel discussion on the festival’s website.

Through the Veteran Arts Initiative program, Veronica Shields was able to share her story with CCAD students. She’s a Vietnam veteran who had many different jobs while in the military, but unfortunately once she returned to civilian life, it was difficult to find work right away.

“Back in the olden days, females going into the military was not readily accepted. So, I was a bit isolated,” she said. It was during that time that she turned to art out of curiosity.

“It brought me out of my isolation and it helped me to connect through art and to readily interact with people in a more relaxed and sometimes intimate manner, depending on the art,” she said. “And in my eyes help me to be able to communicate.”

Now that she’s retired, she has turned to the arts full-time, working in stone carving, woodworking, leatherwork, and more mediums.

Shields says the CCAD students seemed to be really dedicated to the subject matter and the telling of veterans’ stories.

Austin Black, a CCAD film and video senior, interviewed a few different veterans for the project, in order to create a snapshot of how veterans of different backgrounds were using art post-service. He says he wanted to challenge the image of what some may picture when they think of veterans.

“I wanted to break the perception, which is the title of my piece, of this idea that veterans are this singular thing. And I wanted to portray different personalities and people through my piece,” he said.

He says the project speaks to how much of an impact art can have on people.

“I think it’s a good idea for us to see that art isn’t necessarily something that you have to study for or be professionally trained in,” he said. “It’s all about how we choose to approach life and to express and show others our unique lens, and help us make sense of things that sometimes we can’t put into words or cope with things that are too difficult for us to wrap our heads around.”

Shields says she’s appreciative of the project for telling her story, but emphasized that it’s not just hers.

“I really want to have it reach out to others who may be in this whirlwind of emotions and life experiences, to open their eyes a little to something that might be an alternative to other coping mechanisms that might work for them,” she said.

“It bridges gaps,” she continued. “Because there’s so much going on, as there always is in the world, but especially with this war that’s been going on for almost 20 years. And you don’t hear about it much anymore. It keeps in context what sacrifices have been made for the families and the individual service members…not just accomplishments but experiences.”

A free screening of Re-story will coincide with a virtual panel discussion Friday, Nov. 13, from 5 to 7 p.m. For more information, visit www.veteransfilm.org/presents.

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