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Student veteran stories
Veterans express war with art
VPP Grace Ballweg 15
UWStevens Point artgraphic design student Grace Ballweg of Platteville explains the print she created as part of the Veteran Print Project with UWStevens Point first-year students who served in the military. - photo by Photo courtesy UWStevens Point

STEVENS POINT — Nicholas Kuehn was 10 years old when terrorists flew into the twin towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001. 

“That was the day I decided to join the Army,” he said.

Kuehn was just a kid, watching cartoons at the time. But his resolve remained firm. At 17, the Wausau native enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served in the 1st Battalion 35th Armored Regiment in Fort Bliss, Texas.

Now a student at UW–Stevens Point, Kuehn shared that memory with Grace Ballweg, one of 21 student artists. Ballweg, of Platteville, expressed the story in a print that showed dark towers with a brightly colored screen of cartoon characters between them.

It was part of a Veteran Print Project involving students in two courses at UW–Stevens Point in the spring semester. The results are on display at the Edna Carlsten Gallery in the Noel Fine Art Center.

Many returning veterans who are new to college take a first-year seminar, “Back from the Front: Transitioning from the Military to Civilian Life.” David Chrisinger, a UW–Stevens Point graduate who developed and teaches the class, worked with Art and Design Prof. Bob Erickson to pair his veteran-students with students in a printmaking class. The veterans each shared an experience, and the student artists created a visual representation of it.

“This is an exercise in trust,” said Yvette Pino, an Iraq war veteran who is part of the Wisconsin-based Veteran Print Project. “The veteran has to put trust in the artist to tell their story. The artist has to trust they’re getting it right.”

Ballweg’s print captures a colorful TV screen and airplane on a decidedly dark moment Sept. 11, when many children and adults watched planes, hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists, fly into the World Trade Center towers. Ballweg’s print captures the innocence of childhood surrounded by the stark reality of that day, with the towers portrayed in dark chalk.

Following this exhibit, the UW–Stevens Point Veteran Print Project will be on display at the Kenosha Public Museum from July 4 to Nov. 11.