Because of the cave man we have a glimpse into what their conditions were like. Beginning with them everyday lives, food sources, animals and enemies they encountered were recorded, by drawings, scratches, and paintings, on the walls of caves. Throughout time this method has continued and has document people’s lives, scenery, religious traditions and history thorough out the world. In modern times these murals have been transferred to the walls of building throughout the world. A couple of the most famous murals were done by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo.

In August, I attended the Ribbon Cutting for the East Tennessee ArtScapes new location. I talked with then Director Shanon Kelley who told me about a possible small grant from the Tennessee Arts Council. The deadline for applications was only a couple weeks away, but we decided to try.

Shanon put together all the paperwork as I rounded up the information and designed the projects. I came up with two projects that would support an upcoming military art and artifacts exhibit and bringing some new life to a building in the community by creating a military related Mural. Shanon submitted our grant proposal and six weeks later we got our reply.

“The Tennessee Arts Commission in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Veteran Services has awarded nine Tennessee Military, Veterans & the Arts (TNMVA) grants to organizations and their community partners throughout the state. The purpose of the grant is to encourage organizations that serve Tennessee’s military members, veterans and their families to use the arts as a way to achieve their goals in providing services to military audiences and to encourage arts organizations to engage military audiences in outcomes-based activities that enhance Tennessee’s communities.”

Our two-part project was selected. The Arts Council press release read, “The Veteran Expression Project in Cocke County will include an exhibition of military photographs, artwork and memorabilia culminating in the creation of a mural that will reflect the local veteran’s military experience. Veterans, students from Cocke County High School and volunteers from the community will help create the mural.

Part one of the Project was presented through the Military Art and Artifacts exhibit “A Glimpse into our Wars”. The exhibit was held November 8th through the 11th at the Newport Community Center. It featured over 100 pieces of military photos, prints, dioramas, documents and personal mementos from Veterans and family members. Included in the collection was a list of names of Cocke County men who fought in World War One, presented by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Also, a special Quilt of Valor was on display. It was a surprise award given to me at the event’s closing by the Parrottsville Quilts of Valor. We have been working on Part Two of the project and are ready to announce more about the plans.

We looked at buildings throughout the community and chose the Disabled Americans Chapter 102. At their October meeting members were approached and voted to have the mural painted on their Chapter Hall. While TN ArtScapes is managing the grant, I am coordinating the project. We are looking for people in the community to join the project and use their expertise and ideas to complete the Mural by the first of June.

Chapter 102 has been in need of upgrades, for many years, and has formed a facilities committee to start addressing the major issues. One of the major needs was to paint the building. This makes the hall a perfect place to create the mural. The committee, led by Larry Hartsell and Charlie Brooks, has been replacing fascia and other materials. The cold temperatures have been the only thing keeping them from painting the trim.

The area for the Mural will be approximately 5 feet tall by 18 feet long, not a small project. The members have started developing ideas of what they would like to see on the wall that faces the main parking area. We would like to have the community’s input and beginning February 1 through March 15th we will take suggestions. At the Veteran Day activities, at Cocke County High Schools, I have seen some great art work and I will be reaching out to the two Art Teachers.

The content will be military/veteran in composition. Murals can have multiple themes within the format, but all will support the “Theme” of the design. There can be images of Medals (Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Service Medal, etc.), Military equipment (aircraft, ships, tanks, etc.), Military Working animals, and Veterans. When finished this will be a unique image prepared to honor the sacrifices and dedication women and men have made while serving their country.

The project is designed to partner the Veterans and of members of the community. Help has already been offered by the Cocke County High School JNROTC, County Mayor, City Aldermen, Keep Cocke County Beautiful and the East Tennessee ArtScapes. I have reached out to two nationally known artists that I have previous ties with but feel there are some really talented artists in this community.

The Exhibition was a great success and because of the support plans are being made to have it become an annual event. It is time to move into phase two and prepare for warm weather and be ready to put the ideas for the Mural on the building. If you have ideas, sketches, talent, or you just want to help please contact me through the information listed at the end of the column. This is one more way the community can show Veterans how much they honor their service. This will become a record for generations to come. Become part of this project.

NEWS OF NOTE: Don’t forget AMVETS Post 75 has moved their meeting place.

AMVETS Post 75, meets at the Newport Community Center’s Community Room 433 Prospect Avenue on January 15th at 7 pm. Entry will be through the main entrance at 433 Prospect Avenue. Beginning in February the meetings will return to the 1st Tuesday of each month. You can call the Commander, Richard Holt, at (423) 608-2902 for directions or more information.

Disabled American Veterans Chapter 102 at 148 Pine Street. Chapter 102 will hold their regular monthly meeting on Thursday, January 17th. The Chapter opens at 6 pm with a potluck meal and meeting at 7 pm. Members are encouraged to attend and learn of the new things happening in the community. Now during Wednesday’s “Open House” join in for a game of checkers, chess, or a friendly game of Rook, Spades or Bridge. For more information contact Albert Johnson, Commander at 760-586-1586.

Parrottsville Quilts of Valor have announced that on February 3rd they will participate in National Quilts of Valor sew day. Anyone interested in sewing for Quilts of Valor for just one day is invited to attend. No experience is necessary. We will be happy to teach you how to piece quilt tops. Call Sheilah Strobel at 423-623-8340 for more information or check this column next week for an update.

Rob Watkins is a totally disabled, Air Force, Vietnam combat veteran. He has worked with Veterans for over 40 years. As a member of local organizations, he continues his path to help others. Please send information, dates for events, two weeks in advance, questions or suggestion; by mail to PO Box 224 Cosby, TN 37722 or c/o Newport Plain Talk, email; viewfromthebunker@yahoo.com, Facebook/View from the Bunker, or call 423-721-8918

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