Operation Valor Arts is a new veterans’ nonprofit in Pittsburgh. We give teams of veterans the tools they need to design and build public art pieces that honor those who served. There are two awesome things about this: first, the projects are done by veterans, for veterans. In the history of American monuments, only professional designers have had the privilege of interpreting the experience of the American soldier. We put that power in the hands of the people who’ve lived it, by giving veteran volunteers access to education and guidance from people experienced in design, fabrication, documentation, etc. And that’s the second awesome thing: OVArts helps veterans transition to meaningful civilian careers. Veterans who participate get hands-on experience in a lot of potential new career fields; they make connections with professionals in Pittsburgh; they get a “built work” to add to their résumés; AND we pay them a stipend for the hours spent in training. More than anything, I am dedicated to OVArts because it highlights the incredible skill and strength of our nation’s veterans. There is no monument to OEF/OIF veterans. As the yellow ribbons come down, and the negative press about veterans’ issues abounds, I want to have big, fat public art pieces all over Pittsburgh, and eventually nationally, that say, “Look at what our veterans are capable of!” I want a positive reminder of their service, a denial that all veterans are broken or in need of handouts, and a strong message to employers that veterans have a singular ability to accomplish new or difficult assignments. There’s no handout, no pity; we ask veterans to accomplish a mission and continue to serve their country.
Funded by Pittsburgh, PA (January 2015)