Chicago museum of veterans' art battles for survival

Sun Jul 31, 2011 1:42pm EDT
 
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By Karin Matz

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Joe Fornelli knows the art of survival.

In 1965, when he was 22, the Chicago native was drafted and sent to Vietnam, where he served in an army helicopter unit.

"So many crazy things happened, people getting killed or wounded or burned," Fornelli said. "You never get over it."

He found solace in art. One time he used instant coffee and water to paint the realities of war.

Fornelli and his fellow veteran artists find themselves in the midst of another battle -- to save their beloved National Veterans Art Museum in Chicago, which is struggling.

The museum houses more than 2,000 pieces of art by veterans from World War II to the current conflicts in the Middle East.

"We've got trained artists. We've got self-taught artists. We have people that probably would not even consider themselves artists," said Mike Helbing, 64, a professional artist, Vietnam vet and the museum's chairman.

What is now the National Veterans Art Museum started in 1981 as a traveling exhibit but found a home in 1996 when it bought an abandoned building from Chicago for one dollar.   Continued...

 
<p>Joe Fornelli, artist liason for the National Veterans Art Museum, is seen beside Jon Turner's "Prayer Boots" in Chicago July 20, 2011. REUTERS/Jim Young</p>