I spent the first two hours of my Henri campaign volunteer time at Walter Reed, being only moderately helpful as an assistant at an art show. The pieces were created by those in and around the Reed community who found solace in art during difficult times, mostly cancer treatment and surgery recovery.
The works were striking.
What I appreciated most was the fact that this is ostensibly an extension of the DoD. My time in DC has been an all-out assault on my ideas about what this country is made of. I don’t know why I thought I could move to the heart of the political underbelly and somehow leave with my starry (and stripey) eyed notions intact.
But for every disappointing case, there has been a point of light- and this was one of them.
Some dismiss art the same way they dismiss the stuff it’s good for. I would remind them that only art takes something as grotesque as war or impossible to escape as grief and turns it into something productive or cathartic. Sometimes communicating about these things is what hurts the most. Coming up with words without the fear of alienating others or being misunderstood is hard. The arts are a direct line from whatever someone is feeling to whatever medium is chosen. It goes beyond interpretation. It becomes vehicle for expression without the weight of explanation. A work of art can be shared or forever secret. It can start conversations or end doubt. It can be the first step in the realization that you can go through something horrible and feel horrible without being horrible. It makes me happy to know that on some level, the government recognizes this as important.
For those of you who haven’t been inside the new Walter Reed, here’s a look at the foyer (not pictured: grand piano). Pretty nice.
If you would like to donate to the Henri Fund (balance remaining ~$7000) you can call them with a card or send a check directly to Potter Violins, attention Jim Kelly/Emily Wright cello account. Thank you to all who have already donated. I love you.