LITTLE FALLS - Recognizing the sacrifice of veterans in support of freedom and democracy is at the heart of a multi-year art project for the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery near Little Falls.
The Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery Memorial Association commissioned artist Charles Gilbert Kapsner of Little Falls to design and create five oil paintings depicting the history of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard.
The project aims to hang large canvas paintings, which will be 8 feet by 10 feet, in the committal hall at the cemetery. Concept sketches for the paintings were unveiled Friday at the Initiative Foundation in Little Falls. The project, called "Looking Back ... A Manifest Destiny" is expected to cost $495,000 and take four years to complete. Organizers said the project's name is based on the role the military has played in the preservation and creation of the nation's democracy.
Kapsner, the son of a World War II veteran, has been able to explore his love of history. Kapsner said his 35 years of art experience from oil paintings to his fresco work will all be tapped for this project. Extensive research for each military branch went into creating the sketches with a nod toward important historic moments while keeping the focus has on the human contributions. Kapsner will use real uniforms - from the Continental Army to today's Minnesota National Guard - and people will serve as models for his figures.
Charles Kapsner, Little Falls artist, pointed out a detail in his sketch depicting the history of the Army. Kapsner provided five sketches depicting military branches. Through a plan unveiled Friday, Kapsner will create 8-foot by 10-foot oil canvas paintings of the scenes to hang in the committal hall of the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery near Camp Ripley. The Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery Memorial Association commissioned Kapsner for the project. Donations are being sought for the project, which is expected to cost $495,000 and take four or five years.
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"It's exciting," Kapsner said, noting he believes the project has a statewide reach and beyond. "I'm humbled they asked and thought of me to do this."
The idea started with Gordon Gerling, former state representative from Little Falls. Gerling, an Air Force veteran, wanted to see a veterans memorial at the site. Early ideas for one didn't pan out but Gerling didn't give up on the idea, said David Swantek, cemetery director. Then Gerling had a conversation with Kapsner and everything clicked. Gerling has been tremendously pleased and excited about the project, Swantek said.
Kapsner considers each painting to be an allegorical piece, telling a story and using those symbolic figures to examine greater truths. The emotion of the subject remains in the forefront for Kapsner in terms of even coming close to understanding the pain and sacrifice and endurance of the men and women who served the country dedicated to the cause of freedom.
- The concept sketches will be exhibited in Brainerd on Jan. 29 with a reception from 5-8 p.m. at the Franklin Arts Center.
- Artist Charles Kapsner's work in oil paintings will be on display to give participants an opportunity to see his art.
- For more information on the art project, go online to http://givemn.razoo.com/story/Manifest-Destiny-Fund or e-mail to email@example.com.
For people who are in the committal hall for a loved one's service, Kapsner said he hopes the paintings will both pay honor to their loved one's service and give those grieving a vision of what their veteran experienced - whether it was World War II or Afghanistan.
Joseph Schirmers, state chaplain for the VFW in Minnesota, said he couldn't think of a "better way to honor the dead than by helping the living."
Jack Peck, president of the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery Memorial Association, said it's hard to find a family without a connection to the military in some way. "You will want to see these paintings," Peck said. The educational aspect of the project struck a chord with Peck. He has a dream of seeing copies of the paintings in schools throughout the state with the main theme of how freedom and democracy were won.
"We're so excited about this project," said Deb Boelz, Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce president and chief executive officer. "It is one more piece that honors our veterans."
The paintings depict a wide range of vignettes covering generations of servicemen and women.
"It's going to be eerie in a way to walk into that room and have all these generations there," Swantek said, calling the project an incredible opportunity. The paintings will be donated to the veterans cemetery as a gift.
The project is not being funded by public funds or tax dollars. Instead tax-deductible donations are being sought from individuals, corporations and veterans organizations.
At Friday's meeting, Dr. Phil Prosapio, an orthopedic surgeon in Little Falls, committed $5,000 a year to support the project for an expected $20,000 donation. Organizers reported they had already raised $5,000 for the fund. Individuals who donate $1,000 or more will be able to have a name on a memorial wall at the cemetery. Donations of all amounts are welcome and those gifts will be recorded in a book that will remain on the site.
The Initiative Foundation in Little Falls is administering the Manifest Destiny Fund. Online donations are being accepted at http://givemn.org by typing in Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery or by going to http://givemn.razoo.com/story/manifest-destiny-fund.
The paintings will be hung as they are completed.
"This is going to be a great, great project," Kapsner said. "Not only for central Minnesota but for our nation."
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.
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