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Art conveys impact of war: 'Always Lost' exhibit debuts in Reno
Catherine Stokes - Public Affairs Intern
RENO - The “Always Lost” exhibit is on display at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Mathewson IGT- Knowledge Center until May 4. The display showcases Pulitzer Prize-winning photos of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, poetry and a compilation of photos featuring every service member who lost their life in combat since 9-11.
Cadet Michael Colyer, a member of the Nevada National Guard’s 1/221st Cavalry Squadron, found himself most moved by the collage of Soldiers lost in the war.
“It puts faces to the numbers and names you hear on the news,” Colyer said. “You gain an appreciation for the soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice and with each picture you see someone who had families and friends. They must have been devastated by the loss of their loved one.”
This exhibit was first showcased at Western Nevada College in spring 2009. Marilee Swirczek, a professor of English at the institution, began the project as an assignment for her creative writing class. They hung the collection in their art gallery and were surprised by the exhibit’s strong reception. Each night they visited the gallery on their way out of class.
“They had a reaction we never predicted,” Swirczek said. “Someone would always be in there. It was like a sacred space where people could come and contemplate the war.”
The 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning photos from Cheryl Diaz Meyer and David Leeson of the “Dallas Morning News” were also added to the student’s collection of prose, poetry and the collage. The Western Nevada College students are still committed to maintaining their work. They have continued adding names over the years. Swirczek said they are in the process of adding almost 1,600 names.
Since 2010, this exhibit has traveled across the county visiting any university by request. As of March 12, the exhibit returned to Nevada for the first time and the University of Nevada, Reno, was chosen as its first stop. Colyer believes it is important for students to see this display.
“It came to UNR to show students the true side of war that is not romanticized and recognize that there are still people in harm’s way right now defending the United States from people who want to destroy everything we stand for,” he said.
Swirczek said she wants the nation to experience this exhibit. The University of Nevada, Reno, was a priority visit considering it is Western Nevada College’s sister institution.
“It just felt good to bring it home and share it,” Swirczek said. “We created something that we wanted the county to see.”
The exhibit is scheduled to be back at Western Nevada College this summer. No times are currently scheduled for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.