This is one panel of the Veterans impact Project monument.
Dogtown Dance Theatre's aerialists caught the judges' eye for best booth and Art on Wheels' unveiling of its Veterans Impact Project Monument won for best "ta-da!" at Saturday's Arts & Culture Xpo — both winners receive $1,000. John Bryan, Culture Works president, says that the eight judges (including yours truly) gave first, second and third votes to nine organizations for best booth and 17 for best "ta-da!" The People's Choice award, voted by attendees who each received one gold coin, and $1,000 went to CharacterWorks, formerly Christian Youth Theater.
I caught up this morning with Art on Wheels co-founder Kevin Orlosky, who explained that the Veterans Impact Project developed during discussions with sculptor James Robertson. Begun in 2007 by Orlosky and his wife, Andrea, Art on Wheels is devoted to providing therepeutic art to communities with limited access to the arts. Of working with veterans, Orlosky says, "We thought it would be a way for them to use force to create something beautiful."
The project started by soliciting ideas from area veterans, including those at Sitter and Barfoot Veterans Care Center near McGuire Veterans Affairs Medical Center. The Art on Wheels team then gathered objects of significance to the veterans and made rubber castings of the original objects.
At Dominion Riverrock in May, veterans and their loved ones were invited to hurl the castings — or actual objects — into a 3,000-pound wall of clay using a ballista, a Roman weapon-launching apparatus built for this purpose.
"They could choose whatever symbol was meaningful to them," Orlosky says, noting that those included a wide range of items such as soldiers' gear, scissors, bamboo, poker chips, stars and a harmonica.
"We had 170 veterans honored, between veterans coming out and participating, and people honoring a veteran in their family," he says, adding that the veterans represented every major U.S. military conflict from World War I to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Some of the emotions they shared were nothing I would have ever imagined," Orlosky says. "I definitely learned that what we were doing was very special to them."
Afterward, the team used the clay as a mold that was cast into a relief sculpture using all-weather polymerized plaster, he says. The resulting monument consists of three, 3-by-5-foot panels. The money from Saturday's win will help Art on Wheels to take the panels on tour around the state. Plans are still being worked out for the tour, and for a permanent location for the monument.