Help me travel to Chicago on May 20th to document history in the making: Iraq and Afghanistan veterans publicly returning their military medals. A friend is loaning me a video camera to record the event and interview veterans. I am looking for financial backers for this project to help support my journey to Chicago as well as the production and shipping cost of 100 tiles.
Why is this demonstration so important to me that I would travel 650 miles to Chicago and go out on a limb to ask family, friends and strangers to help me? In 2007 my senior thesis project at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia began an ongoing history project with Vietnam Veterans. I make bas-relief ceramic tiles (the poster image of this project) commemorating Dewey Canyon III, a 1971 demonstration where over 700 veterans publicly returned their medals to protest the war they had fought in and that others were still fighting. I mail the tiles to veterans (I started with someone I knew and the circle grew as veterans recommended other brothers-in-arms to send tiles to), free of charge (volunteering the labor and donating the material, firing, and shipping costs) and ask them what they think it means to return a medal. The response has been so humbling, inspiring, and validating (as an artist searching for a meaningful role in society) that the project continues indefinitely. I was also very encouraged and honored to receive an award from the University's President upon graduating, rewarding the project for my "use of ceramic art to stimulate a public discussion about patriotism and the Vietnam War." I would like to one day write a book about it. I have received dozens of letters in response and turned up powerful, very personal, and historically significant stories from veterans both privately and publicly destroying or returning their military medals as a cathartic gesture. Stories that might not survive had I not asked, which is why I continue to make these tiles. The demonstration in Chicago is my once-in-a-life-time opportunity to experience first-hand a subject in American history that I have devoted a portion of my life to researching. With the money raised I will mail the 100 tiles to veterans I meet in Chicago, and other veterans they recommend, and to those backers who can donate a little more as a thank you. I won't be able to pull this off without some help. Please check out my blog: alexirvineceramics.com for more information about this project and other works.
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