'Blossoming Back Home'

This piece of art, entitled “Blossoming Back Home,” was created by Jamie Barnett and was one of dozens of pieces on display at the Edith B. Siegrist Vermillion Public Library. Barnett’s painting is of a cherry tree that utilizes poppy flowers instead of cherry blossoms. Each flower “represents someone that has or is serving our country in any branch of the military,” she states.

This week, USD professor Jing Williams and her students were at it again, raising money to support VFW Post 3061. Williams’s students, all future elementary school teachers, created artwork honoring veterans that was on display this week at the Edith B. Siegrist Vermillion Public Library. A silent auction held in conjunction with the art exhibition raised money for Post 3061. As of press time, an exact amount raised was not available, but last semester’s show brought in more than $900.

This is the fourth time Williams has staged an art show and fundraiser for Post 3061 as part of the elementary education class -- K-8 Social Science Methods -- she teaches at USD.

“I love this art project in my social studies classroom not only because it teaches my future teachers how to be creative in teaching, but also because it engages them in learning at a deeper level and it brings the best out of each student,” she said. “My students do not treat this project as another assignment that they have to complete. Instead, they try to personalize their own artwork.”

This semester’s theme for the project was “In Flanders Fields” in honor of the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. Williams and her students created 38 pieces of artwork around this theme. The result, 38 different interpretations using many different mediums, was impressive and touching, she said.

“I am pleasantly surprised by the high level of enthusiasm my students exhibited from the beginning toward this project,” she said. “They are truly engaged in the project. It may sound cheesy, but I do love all the artwork created by my students. These are future elementary school teachers, not art majors. They are doing something that is beyond their expertise. … All of my students are giving their best while working on this project and thoroughly enjoying it in the process. They feel proud of what they created and contributed, as they understand what this is good for.”

For the first time since starting her art show fundraisers four semesters ago, this semester’s art show was held off campus.

“There are two main reasons why we changed the location this time,” said Williams. “First, parking is an issue on campus. In the past, audience members told me they had a hard time finding a parking spot on campus. Several had to turn back and leave because they couldn't park and had to go back to work, so they didn’t get to see the show. Second, this art project is a community collaboration in nature. We used to host it on campus, but it's time to move to the community.”

The public library was the perfect location for this year’s show due to the space available for displaying the artwork and the library’s ample parking. Thanks to the library’s space, this semester’s art show was held over two days, instead of just one.

“We wanted to be able to host the event for longer, so more people in the community have a chance to see it,” said Williams. “Moving it off campus to the library worked great!”

In the future, Williams hopes the show may expand into a week-long event.

If you didn’t have a chance to view the show this week, donations to Post 3061 are still being accepted.

“The Post and I would be very appreciative if anyone would like to make a donation,” said Williams. “Supporting the VFW Post 3061 is supporting the local community, because the Post supports so many local events such as the Patriot’s Pen, Voice of Democracy, some high school projects, the Special Olympics, etc.”

Donations may be sent to: VFW Post 3061, in care of Andy Howe, 45743 308th St., Wakonda, SD 57073.

Adds : “Our post is very appreciative of Dr. Willliams’ collaborative efforts to bring awareness to the service of veterans. We enjoy working closely with her and we are energized by her enthusiasm," said Howe, who is quartermaster of Post 3061. "Her work is intended to bring a human perspective to the veterans’ service. … Each year, the students are finding and showing new ways to express patriotism and honor to those who have served.”

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