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Feb 23

Veterans’ artwork addresses transitioning back to civilian life

Posted on February 23, 2021 at 3:25 PM by Becky Burnside

Building a bridge between the local community and the veteran experience is the goal of a new temporary art exhibition which opened recently at the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center. 
The show is called “Place of Peace” and features 23 artworks by nine artists, all veterans of various branches of the U.S. military. It opened in mid-February and is scheduled to remain on display in JCAHC’s Creative Commons area through Aug. 6. Art mediums on display as part of this show include digital and traditional photography, drawings, acrylic paintings, and oil paintings.

“The term Place of Peace” was coined from the inaugural show that took place in 2019, as artist Gary Walker described his art as seeking a place of peace, a place of serenity,” explained Fine Arts Coordinator and Show Curator Devin Graham. “While on active-duty, an individual’s life is consumed by that duty and the direction it provides, but when leaving service, that same individual is thrust into the throws of civilian life with very little direction; let alone the considerations for mental health and physical health. One of our goals is to help bridge that gap and bridge that understanding for both veterans and civilians alike. I’m hopeful that this show, each year, will not only help with acknowledgement and communication, but will create conversation and cause for change as we aim to support our veterans through this transition.”
While most art exhibitions tied to art by veterans are almost always male-dominated and tend to exemplify patriotism and focus on the service and veteran identity, “Place of Peace” does not fit into that mold.

“I am proud to say that we are sort of flipping-the-script on this with a design approach that is almost the antithesis to this concept,” Graham said. “I think when viewers see the show, they will be pleasantly surprised by it. There are so many layers to what makes a person who they are, and it is far too often that artists who are veterans are restricted to that veteran label. We hope to highlight that, while their service is immeasurably appreciated and acknowledged, their identity is more than just their service. Who they are as a person, is more.”

Participating artists created their work while processing the emotional and physical transition of post-service bridging back to civilian life.

Place of Peace 3

Envisioned as an annual exhibition with different artists each year, last year’s “Place of Peace” show was postponed because of the pandemic.

“It was originally scheduled for 2020, but due to the impacts of COVID-19, it was pushed to 2021,” Graham said. “Thus, the Call for Entry was shared in 2019 for a spring 2020 show; and the show on-view now is comprised of the artists who submitted for the 2020 show.”

This exhibition is located in the Creative Commons area of the Johnson County Arts & Heritage Center, 8788 Metcalf Ave., Overland Park. Admission to this show is free and available during building hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more about this exhibit, go to

Place of Peace 1

“Place of Peace” is being presented in partnership with the Arts Council of Johnson County and supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Mazuma Foundation. An exhibition catalog for this show, including all of the works, artist headshots artist statements, and notes from the Chief Curator and partners, is in the works and will be available for purchase, but no release date has been set.