The BFA Photography DepartmentÂ at SVA presents âDeclassified: A Portrait of the Veteran as a Young Artist,â an exhibition organized by the student club Veteran Coalition of the Arts (SVA-VCA) and curated by faculty member Jeff Edwards, taking place at 214 East 21 Street, 4th – 6th floors, October 30 – November 10.
In 1947, upon returning from WWII, the late Silas Rhodes and Burne Hogarth enlisted the support of the Department of Veterans Affairs to open an art school for veterans. With three faculty members and 35 students, the School of Visual Artsâthen known as the Cartoonists and Illustrators Schoolâwas established.
The military lineage at SVA is represented by the likes of Rhodes and Hogarth, along with former faculty members such as Will Eisner (illustrator, graphic novelist, and creator of the comic The Spirit), alumni Peter Buotte (BFA 1999 Fine Arts) and Steve Mumford (MFA 1994 Fine Arts), as well as alumni Samuel Bayer (BFA 1987 Media Arts), who directed the âArmy Strongâ campaign, and George C. Woodbridge (1956 Illustration), who created numerous detailed drawings of military uniforms, insignia, and equipment.
SVA has a small community of veteran students attending on scholarship thanks to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. This group exhibition pays homage to SVAâs military history, showcasing how personal experiences have shaped the work of the artists.
âThe GI Bill is a game changer for me and a lot of veterans past and present,â says current BFA Photography student Hector Rene, who helped organize the exhibition and has work in it. âAmerican GIs come home and have the ability to attend flight school, electrician school, plumber school, medical school, law school and even art school. This not only makes us better individuals, but better soldiers and better members of our communities. Without the GI Bill, coming to New York City, going to SVA and studying what I love wouldnât have been possible.â
Rene has been greatly inspired by his college experience, but his work continues to be influenced by his time spent serving in Iraq. âSVA and NYC have given me the benefit of photographing a wide range of subject matters, itâs the nature of this city and the environment the school fostersâitâs vast and filled with options,â he says. â Iâm enjoying my time exploring it, but the photos that are most important to me are those directly related to being a soldier, inside and outside of my uniform.â
Photos by Hector Rene.