Veterans starting college share stories through art project at UWSP

By David Chrisinger
04 May 15

By Larry Lee

The stories of veterans are being told through a special art project. A veteran’s history class has teamed up with printmakers in the art department to visually tell the stories of the Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in the history class. It’s called “Back from the Front: Transitioning from the Military to Civilian Life.”

David Chrisinger is the Adjunct Instructor of History. He teaches former veterans turned college students about the history of veterans coming home from military service, as they did.

Chrisinger says the veterans and the art students really connected, and the results affected everyone involved.  “There’s something also really valuable about someone else caring enough about your story to spend weeks creating a beautiful piece of art it illustrates it, and that’s what Bob Erickson’s printmaking students have done. You know, they’ve literally put sweat and tears into these prints.”

Veteran Print Project

The reveal of the prints will be to a limited audience at UW Stevens Point Tuesday, May 5th. Chrisinger says the prints will go on display in the Fine Arts Center near the end of the month, and also at the Kenosha Public Museum starting July 4th. Other locations are also being considered.

Chrisinger says his student veterans are writing the details of their military experiences to accompany the prints.  “My students are also writing their story, so we’re going to have prints and an artist’s statement of what they were trying to accomplish with their print, but we’ll also have the story to go along with it, and our plan is to possibly find a publisher who might be interested in publishing the images and the stories as like a coffee table kind of book.”

David Chrisinger was not a veteran himself but saw firsthand through friends and family how difficult it can be for veterans returning from deployment or combat to civilian life.  “My dad and my uncle both served during Vietnam, and my grandfather actually fought at the Battle of Okinawa during the 2nd World War, and he had a pretty difficult transition, to put it mildly, so I’ve seen what can happen when people don’t process the things that they go through.”  He also says, “My best friend was in the United States Marine Corps, and when he came back from Afghanistan in 2010, we reconnected, and that put me on the path towards teaching this class. It was the work that we did together.”

The class for veterans on the history of veterans has been highly successful and growing, but may be a casualty of UW System budget cuts. Chrisinger says UWSP officials could only guarantee them one more fall semester, as adjunct professor cuts will probably eliminate the class.

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