Can an image truly capture what it’s like to be a soldier at war? Since World War I, soldier-artists have depicted life on the front lines through works that remained in curatorial storage. Until now.
Described by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “a magnificent new exhibition,” Art of the American Soldier makes its world debut today at the National Constitution Center, unveiling more than 250 powerful works of art created by American soldiers in the line of duty.
After attending the sneak preview earlier this week, I left with a better understanding of life in combat, as well as a greater appreciation of our country’s military members.
Called by some “the most famous art collection no one’s heard of,” the exhibition gives visitors an intimate, firsthand look at war through powerful artistic renditions. In addition to illustrations of battle, the paintings, watercolors, drawings and even cartoons include scenes of game time, laundry day, movie night and the ever-important mail call.
A piece of artwork not only captures a snapshot in time, but also goes deeper by illustrating the emotions of that moment — fear, excitement, pain, camaraderie, boredom, anxiety, exhaustion, bravery.
Museum-goers discover the soldier experience through five sections: Introduction; A Soldier’s Life; A Soldier’s Duty; A Soldier’s Sacrifice; and The American Soldier. The accompanying iPod audio tour features stories from the military service members who lived it, adding personal and endearing oral history accounts to the art, and the artists talk about their inspirations through video touch screens that accompany many of the paintings.
Learn more about the exhibition, the activities the NCC has planned for opening weekend, and watch a video trailer for the exhibition below.
At the end of the unforgettable journey, people can take action by writing a postcard to a soldier, part of the Letters for Lyrics program that aims to send one million letters to service members. As a thank you, letter writers receive a free CD featuring music from the Zac Brown Band, Sonia Leigh, Nic Cowan and Levi Lowrey.
Art of the American Soldier is a must-see for all Americans, whose Constitution is defended by these heroes in uniform. You’ll be amazed that so few people have viewed this astounding collection, and you’ll consider yourself lucky to have been among the first to see it right in Philadelphia, our country’s birthplace.
The exhibition runs through January 10, and admission is free with regular tickets to the National Constitution Center. As always, active military and career military retirees get in for free, and new for this special collection, veterans and military families receive a $2 discount.
To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, visitors are invited to enjoy special weekend events from Friday, September 24 through Sunday, September 26, 2010, as the Center’s Grand Hall Lobby is transformed into a 1940s USO canteen, featuring World War II era décor, music, dancing, and photo opportunities.
The USO’s singing troupe, the Liberty Bells, will perform period favorites and patriotic music, including a medley of military songs. Guests can learn about the experiences of American soldiers during different time periods during the special interactive program In the Army Now, as well as participate in an Army Protocol Workshop that teaches military etiquette, including the proper way to salute and wear a uniform.
Children are invited make World War II era crafts, such as model airplanes, playing cards, and victory gardens, to learn about the different ways children helped the war effort from the home front. The Center will also pay tribute to the work of the United Services Organization, which has a proud history of serving our nation’s Armed Forces.
Admission to Art of the American Soldier is FREE with regular museum admission of $12 for adults, $11 for seniors ages 65 and over, and $8 for children ages 4-12. Veterans and military families will receive $2 off admission. Active military personnel, career military retirees, and children ages 3 and under are free. The iPod audio tours cost an additional $5.
Art of the American Soldier
September 24, 2010 through January 10, 2011
National Constitution Center in Philadelphia