Veterans Art Show allows artwork display in safe environment

Veteran Tony McClellan started painting his multimedia piece titled “Let’s Go Fishing” in 2003. After seven years, he finally has a blue ribbon for a job well done.

McClellan’s painting was inspired by a piece his mother painted years before. The painting depicted McClellan as a young man fishing on a lake. He wanted a similar piece of artwork to match, but his ailing mother was unable to paint it, so he thought he’d try himself.

Then he caught “the big one,” a huge rainbow trout, which he had stuffed and mounted in the right-hand corner of his painting. He also cut a live pine tree, complete with pine cones, to frame and finish the work.

“This is the first painting I’ve ever done,” McClellan said. Looking at it reminds him of his now-deceased mother, the true artist in the family, he said.

McClellan and other veterans entered their artwork in the 13th annual Western Slope Veterans Creative Arts Festival, and received their awards Tuesday afternoon.

It is often difficult for veterans to show their work to the public for a number of reasons, and the arts festival provides a safe environment for their initial displays, said Matt Lucas, coordinator of the local festival.

“This is a way for veterans to really sprout, because it highlights their abilities and not their disabilities,” Lucas said during the awards ceremony.

This year there were 26 visual arts entries and five in the performing arts category, which includes drama, music and creative writing.

Ben Snider, a veteran and impressive artist, was to be Tuesday’s guest speaker, however he passed away in April. His wife, Donna, spoke Tuesday on his behalf, saying that “everyone should have a passion in life and art was Ben’s.” She recalled that her husband used to become so engrossed in his work he wouldn’t even notice that she had entered the room. She added that his last year on Earth was probably his best. Ben won numerous awards for his artwork last year.

“He left a beautiful reminder of himself,” Snider said, while standing before a large painting of a desert landscape painted by her late husband — “and the love of art is something to be cherished forever.”

“You have all inspired me and I think it’s amazing what you guys have made,” Lucas said to the veterans, many of whom he treats through the hospital’s art and recreation program.

The winners of the local festival will be entered into the national veterans art show competition.

The following veterans were recognized in Tuesday’s ceremony: Albert Atkinson, Larry Brown, Charles Craig, Al Davidson, Emma Folnsbee, A. Mike Hernandez, Durlin Keller, Sheri LeBeau, David Mackenzie, George Peterson, Loren D. Phippen, Mike Roby, Ron “Doc” Ross, Jim Tarr and Richard Wright.

Also recognized: Jerald Bailey, Mark Downing, Debra Day, David Griffing, John Hindman, William Jacobs, Tony McClellan, Patrick Metoyer, D. M. Powell, Michael Ree, Kenneth Ruth, Michael Thompson, and Frank White.


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