The EVAC Project (Experiencing Veterans and Artists Collaboration) exhibit is on display through February 15, 2020 at the Rock Island Arsenal Museum. This compelling and thought-provoking show pairs veterans’ stories with prints created by artists, with the intended purpose to bridge the gap between military and civilian life and to increase our understanding and connection with each other. In total, fifteen stories are told by veterans from all five branches of the military, who served in conflicts ranging from WWII to present-day Iraq and Afghanistan.
Captain Bill “Hawk” Albracht is a decorated Vietnam War veteran originally from Rock Island. In his story, he describes the anger he felt after returning home following the war, the refuge he sought in other veterans, and the closing up of his memories and emotions in a metaphorical closet. Ultimately, however, the closet door “swung wide open and everything came out,” resulting in the publication of his memoir, Abandoned in Hell: The Fight for Vietnam’s Firebase Kate in 2015.
Joseph Lappie is chair of the Art Department at St. Ambrose University and was one of two artists who interpreted Bill Albracht’s story. His multi-color relief print depicts the outline of Bill’s forehead through which his memories are being released, against the background of a house and star. The purple and gold colors symbolize both the American and Vietnamese people as well as the multiple purple hearts, bronze stars, and silver stars awarded to Bill Albracht for his extraordinary military service.
Listen to our conversation here with Patrick Allie, the Director of the Rock Island Arsenal Museum, and with Captain Bill Albracht and Joseph Lappie about the EVAC project, the therapeutic importance of storytelling, and the challenges and joy inherent in creating a work of art such as this.
An artist and curator’s panel will be held Friday, Jan 17, 2020 from 5-7 PM. The Rock Island Arsenal Museum is free of charge, and hours are Tues-Sat from noon until 4PM. A pass is required for entry onto the island, which can be obtained at the visitor’s center with a photo ID.