DANVILLE — When Judy Brown of Hillsdale, Ind., came home from Iraq, a group presented her with a patriotic quilt. It was so touching that the Army veteran vowed to pass along the honor, and began making quilts for other veterans.
Brown’s personal quilt, which has campaign medals and other touches from her combat service, is one of about 50 pieces featured at the Veterans Experience 2016 art show.
The artwork is on display at the Danville Art League now through March. The show is being presented by the Art League, and the Recreation Therapy Service at the Veterans Affairs Illiana Health Care System.
This is the fourth year the league and VA have teamed up to present veterans’ art work. The show was open to all veterans who receive care at the VA, including its Community Outpatient Clinics.
Suzi Robinson with recreation therapy at the VA is impressed with the variety and quality of the work.
“To me, it seems a lot more diverse,” she said. For example, this is the first time a quilt has been entered.
The artwork covers a range, including paintings, photography, wood working, glass art, and even a T-shirt with a design drawn onto it.
Also, there are several first-time entrants this year. Therapists even encouraged lower-functioning veterans involved by creating something.
Judging of the pieces will be done before Saturday, and first-place winners will advance to the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Jackson, Miss., in October.
From 1-4 p.m. Saturday, the public is invited to meet the artists, and enjoy refreshments and entertainment.
Wrapped in glory
Brown, a disabled and combat veteran, has made and distributed hundreds of quilts to veterans across the country since 2011. She returned from Iraq in 2009 and medically retired in 2012.
She made the 50-inch by 60-inch quilt on display in about three days. It took two days to design it, and eight hours to make it, using 150,000 quilt stitches with a machine.
Brown belongs to the Old Glory Quilters, a six-member group based in Parke County, Ind. The group was formed in 2013, but Brown was donating quilts before then; she estimated she’s helped donate about 800 quilts.
Brown buys the materials with her own money and donations. (Anyone who wants to help may contact her at (765) 592-3840.)
As for the quilt on display, it’s personal to her service, representing her 13 years in the Army and her service in Iraq, until she was discharged as a sergeant. She suffered a back injury, and has had three back operations and one hip surgery.
The blue squares on the quilt each represent something unique — from the Civil War to the current wars. One square has the word “loyalty.” Another square has the initials for military sexual trauma, but it’s covered by her combat badge, which symbolizes the military covering up the problem.
One issue that’s important to her involves the Vietnam War veterans, who didn’t get the recognition they deserve.
Brown has other art pieces on display, too, including three photos and a clay pottery mask called The Face of War.
“When people look at a veteran … if they don’t see a physical wound, they think there’s nothing wrong with you,” she said. But the anger, sexual abuse and traumatic brain injuries leave scars that people can’t see.
Brown also has entered a video about the late Chuck W. Tyler of Clinton, Ind., a World War II vet; the film is titled “I Was Just a Soldier.”
Another newcomer to the art show is Steve Smith of Danville, who served on a destroyer with the Navy during the Vietnam War era. Smith also is an Art League member.
He entered three photographs and three sculptures in the show.
One photo called “Silent Sentinel” shows a solitary tree trunk in Montana; another, “End of the Line,” is an inside shot of the abandoned train car west of town, using a feature that gives the photo a painted effect; and “Left Behind” shows a raincoat hanging in an old shed.
Smith’s carvings include a piece of juniper, which he found in Montana, and fashioned into an eagle’s head. He carved it with power tools and finished it by hand, then put a finish on it.
“Hole in One” is a round shape with a gong-like piece in the middle and “Six” is a swirly design; both were carved from walnut and finished with a satin spray lacquer.
Smith said he does a lot of carving, and has displayed his art at shows around town.
Looking over the other entries, Smith said, “Everything is really nice.”
Earlier this week, Robinson and other VA employees, as well as volunteer Bryan Lock were helping to hang artwork at the league.
Brown said to them, “Thank you guys for taking time to help us. You can work at the VA, but if you don’t have the heart for veterans, it doesn’t mean anything.”
She also said she was thankful to Robinson for all her efforts helping veterans.
Brown is a member of the Indianapolis American Legion Women’s Post 438, and is involved in Wounded Warriors and Dare 2 Tri Paratriathlon Club.
Veterans Experience 2016 art exhibit can be viewed now through March 31 at the Danville Art League, 320 N. Franklin St. Hours are 6-9 p.m. Mondays and 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays through Saturdays.
An artists’ reception, which is open to the public, will be from 1-4 p.m. Saturday.