Todays Stories

The Chicago Art Museum gives veterans a place to heal

Chicago is home to the Art of War.

the National Veterans Art MuseumFounded in 1981 by a group of Vietnam Veterans, it provides a space for those who have worked to share their stories, talents, and traumas.

Artists like Dr. Charles Smith, 82, see it as a place where he and others like him can heal. Smith was only 25 years old when he was drafted and sent to Vietnam.

“That mission there was what we were doing, searching and destroying,” Smith said.

Since returning home, he has relied on art to help him heal.

“You have to get to the place, not a psychiatrist, not a counselor, but someone who has buried the burden that you buried and that way they can counsel you to get out of it,” Smith said. “I felt that when I came home it was essential to make sure the legacy of that war was not forgotten, especially the most important part of it: that blacks and whites fought together. We died together.”

Smith’s combat tour may have been more than half a century ago, but he told CBS News that veterans of all ages still understand the importance of war.

Giselle Futrell, the museum’s executive director, joined the Marines right out of high school and was serving in Afghanistan at just 21 years old. Now, she hopes the museum can inform visitors and help artists recover. Its 2,500-piece collection includes works from World War II, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Gulf War, and the global war on terror.

“It’s a place that inspires conversation,” Futrell said. “It’s a place where we can start talking about the uncomfortable stuff.” “Humans are not designed to go to those uncomfortable places, but sometimes we have to, if we want to make progress. The best thing an audience can do for veterans is listen, so this is a place to listen.”

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