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An exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first World War through the art created by ordinary soldiers in the trenches. Read more

Houston, TX Public Art
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Funded!

This project was successfully funded on July 9, 2014.

An exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of the first World War through the art created by ordinary soldiers in the trenches.

Houston, TX Public Art
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About this project

UPDATE: July 8, 2014

Dear Supporters,

We’ve almost reached our goal with less than 40 hours to go! Any amount over our $5,000 benchmark and our Kickstarter campaign is funded. Thanks to all of you for your contributions, small and large. And, a special thanks to those of you who have increased your donations, bugged your friends, nudged your family members, persuaded your neighbors, and given up a latte or twenty to help fund this non-profit centennial exhibition. The 100th anniversary of the Great War and the soldiers who fought in that cataclysmic event deserve our finest efforts.  Thank you for giving this campaign your best.

Dr. Irene Guenther, University of Houston, The Honors College
Dr. Marion Deshmukh, George Mason University

Another postcard from the exhibit!

January 14, 1916: It is well past midnight and bitter cold on the Western Front. A soldier fumbles around for the small tin containing a few watercolors that he has carried with him since entering the war. He is exhausted, but cannot sleep. He pulls a blank postcard out of his pocket and, with great concentration, he paints. The resulting image is astonishing; it is both remarkably beautiful and deeply unsettling. Has he painted the moon peeking out from behind the clouds on this darkest of nights? Or has he painted the cause of his sleeplessness: the terrible gas attack earlier in the evening that illuminated the black sky and the black heart of war?

UPDATE: July 2, 2014

Dear Supporters,

Thanks to all of you, our Kickstarter campaign is almost funded! But remember: Kickstarter campaigns are ‘all or nothing’ – either you reach your goal and you receive all of the donations for your project OR you don’t reach your goal (even if you’re only $5 short) and you don’t receive any of the donations. We only have 8 days to reach our goal of $5000 or we won't receive any of your generous donations. We can’t let that happen!

All we need is $1600 -- that's just 40 people giving $40. Besides, if the Kickstarter campaign for a donut shop can meet its goal, surely our centennial exhibit commemorating the soldiers of the First World War can do the same. Donuts? Soldiers’ art? Glazed or cream-filled? The war that shaped the rest of the century? Loads of sugar and calories that are bad for your body? An exhibit that is good for your head and heart?

It’s a no-brainer, right?

We're so grateful for all of your support up to this point. So please keep spreading the word -- we're almost there!

Irene Guenther, Co-Curator, Professor, History, The Honors College, University of Houston

Marion Deshmukh, Co-Curator, Professor, History, George Mason University

Another postcard from the exhibit!

Trained as an architect, J. Andre Smith pursued etching and drawing in his spare time. Soon after the U.S. entered WWI in 1917, Smith underwent officer training and became a first lieutenant in the Engineer Reserve Corps. He was quickly promoted to captain and called to active duty not as an architect or a combat soldier, but as an artist, as were seven other Americans specifically commissioned into the American Expeditionary Force to “draw the war.” Smith produced more pieces of art during the war than any of the other artists in the “group of eight.” And, he designed the Distinguished Service Cross, which was first awarded in WWI and is the second highest military award that can be given to a member of the U.S. Army. His legacy continues in another form, too. In the 1930s, he designed the Maitland Research Studio in Florida, where art classes and exhibits took place. Today, Smith’s studio – now called the Maitland Art Center – is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the few buildings in the style of “Mayan Revival” in the southeast United States.

 

UPDATE: June 27th, 2014

Hello backers,

Thanks for all of your support! Our WWI exhibit fundraising campaign for Postcards from the Trenches is almost halfway funded. We’d like to crow about our success, but we can’t let ourselves feel too smug yet. We have 13 days remaining in our 30-day fundraiser and still need $2,800 to reach our goal. Please reach out to your friends, family, colleagues, and the person on the street or sitting next to you on the bus or standing in line at the popsicle foodie truck (it IS summer, after all). Just think of what a great opportunity this is: commemorating the centennial of World War One and its soldiers through words and images, sometimes created by hand, sometimes pressed in limited numbers, and often times printed by the thousands – mass-produced by governments, printers, music companies, and shops of all kinds; handmade, photographed, or purchased by loved ones on the home front; and hand-painted, sketched, etched into metal, carved into woodblocks, or superimposed on pre-printed cards by soldiers, who described the conflict as “godless,” hopeless,” and “mechanized terror.” Surely, words and images offer us a more fitting path to remembering the “bitter truths” of the Great War than gazing at a display case filled with the rusty remnants of an assortment of weapons of this catastrophic conflict. Spread the word about the exhibit! We are deeply grateful for your support!

Irene Guenther, Co-Curator, Professor, History, The Honors College, University of Houston

Marion Deshmukh, Co-Curator, Professor, History, George Mason University

A preview of one of the postcards:

On November 18, 1915, fifteen months after WWI had commenced, a soldier paints himself confidently going off to war. At least upon initial view, he seems confident. In full uniform, with a jaunty walk, hands casually stuffed in his pockets, and a cigar hanging out of his mouth, the soldier’s figure fills the face of the postcard. But if we look a little more closely, we notice that there is a returned soldier in the background, a grayish figure with eyes downcast. Most likely injured during his time on the war front, the former soldier has been reduced to selling newspapers on the home front. Our confident soldier looks away.


UPDATE: June 9th, 2014

Dear Friends,

I am writing to ask you to support a notable exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First World War. That conflict, described by the American diplomat George Kennan as the “cataclysmic event of the 20th century,” reshaped Europe and fueled America’s rise on the global stage. Currently, there is no other commemoration of the Great War planned in Texas; this exhibit, therefore, is rare, important, and sure to draw a great deal of public interest.

August 2014 will mark the centenary of World War One, a war whose legacy remains profound in the 21st century. To commemorate its outbreak and its legacy, Dr. Irene Guenther, History Professor in the Honors College, University of Houston, and Dr. Marion Deshmukh, Professor of History and Art History at George Mason University, are organizing a fascinating exhibition, Postcards from the Trenches: German and American Soldiers Visualize the Great War. The exhibit will center on ordinary soldiers, who often conveyed their experiences through “field postcards,” blank postcards distributed to soldiers at the war front on which they corresponded with their loved ones at home. While some soldiers wrote about their ordeal, others painted or drew their experiences. Postcards were ubiquitous, the “social currency” of World War I.

Our show is unique because it focuses on a number of hand-drawn and painted images by American soldiers, as well as a newly discovered series of exquisitely rendered hand-painted trench postcards by Otto Schubert, a young German soldier-artist. There, on the Western Front, amidst the terrible slaughter, he depicted the daily realities and tragedies of the war, painting scenes and emotions that words were insufficient to describe. In addition to soldiers’ postcards, all combatant nations’ governments issued propaganda postcards to influence their soldiers and home front citizens. These government images, as well as American and German soldiers’ visual statements, will be displayed alongside a variety of material objects from the Great War. While most of the images and artifacts have never been exhibited before, it is particularly the soldiers’ postcards that are both illuminating and deeply moving because of the window they open onto the personal landscape of war.

Postcards from the Trenches will run from August 2014 to mid-February 2015 and is currently scheduled for two venues: The Printing Museum in Houston, Texas and the Pepco Edison Place Gallery in Washington, D.C. (directly across from the Smithsonian Museum). Importantly, our exhibit is one of very few planned to commemorate the First World War in the United States. Yet the conflict had a profound and lasting effect on this country, as illustrated by the recent groundswell of support to build a World War I memorial on the National Mall in the nation’s capital.

This exhibition’s public outreach and educational focus (for example, inviting students of all ages to view the exhibit and engage in its interactive components — music from the war, film, war poetry readings, student-created art, and “real time” website) reflects the broad range of humanities. Moreover, the exhibit’s intent, to examine the war through the creative output it evoked, offers us an intimate, personal window into the Great War and its effect on ordinary soldiers and their loved ones.

While the costs of mounting this show are relatively modest when compared to other exhibits of the same size and scope, there are exhibition-related expenses such as mounting the images, creating display cases, shipping and insurance costs associated with the objects, loan fees, an exhibition catalogue, and publicity. We anticipate total costs of approximately $50,000, which includes framing of graphic works and post cards and their installation in Washington, DC and Houston, Texas, as well as supplementary programming such as public lectures, a film series, an interactive website, and a concert of music that was composed during, or in remembrance of, the Great War. Our respective universities are providing modest funds and special course scheduling, but additional support is needed so that this commemorative exhibit engages as wide an audience as possible — from school children and university students to history buffs, art lovers, military personnel, the families of those who served in the 20th century’s first war, tourists visiting our city, and the curious person on the street.

We are asking you to contribute as generously as you can to this unique centennial project.

Best Wishes,

Dr. Irene Guenther

Here are some other artists in our collection that will be present in our exhibit:

Baskerville
Baskerville

 

Kuffrath
Kuffrath

 

Harding
Harding

 

Risks and challenges

It's possible that we won't raise enough money to curate the exhibit on the scale that we would like. In addition, insufficient funds could mean that we won't be able to hold as many public events related to the exhibit as we currently plan. However, depending on the success of our campaign, we can address that by reducing the scope of the exhibit and the scope of the events. The exhibit will take place regardless–it's simply a matter of how much we can accomplish.

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Rewards

  • You selected
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    20 backers Limited (80 left of 100)

    You will receive: Inclusion on the donor list and all publicity on the exhibit.

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    15 backers Limited (5 left of 20)

    You will receive: Inclusion on the donor list and all publicity on the exhibit along with a letter of thanks from Dr. Irene Guenther and Dr. Marion Deshmukh with a replication of one of the postcards on card stock.

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    Only ships to: United States
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    8 backers Limited (2 left of 10)

    You will receive:

    Inclusion on the donor list and all publicity on the exhibit.

    Packet of 5 replications of postcards with a translation of the text on the postcards and a letter of thanks from Dr. Irene Guenther and Dr. Marion Deshmukh.

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    Pledge $500 or more

    2 backers Limited (8 left of 10)

    You will receive:

    Inclusion on the donor list as a large contributor to the project and all publicity on the exhibit.

    Packet of 10 replicate postcards with a translation of the text on the postcards and a letter of thanks from Dr. Irene Guenther and Dr. Marion Deshmukh.

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    Only ships to: United States
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    0 backers

    You will receive:

    Inclusion on the donor list as a large contributor to the project and all publicity on the exhibit.

    Packet of 25 replicate postcards with a translation of the text on the postcards and a letter of thanks from Dr. Irene Guenther and Dr. Marion Deshmukh.

    Copies of all the exhibit publicity.

    A personal tour of the exhibit with either Dr. Guenther in Houston, TX at The Museum of Printing History or with Dr. Deshmukh in Washington D.C. at the Pepco Edison Place Gallery.

    Estimated delivery:
    Only ships to: United States

Funding period

- (30 days)