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Memorials, Thanksgiving crafts show gratitude through art

Everyday Art

By Alex Chamberlain
On November 17, 2011

  • Guest Speaker Tricia Shapiro, a leader in anti-mountain top removal advocacy, speaks in support of divesting DePauw's endowment at the Divest DePauw Rally on Saturday afternoon in Meharry Hall. The projector screen reads The World is Watching. Save Coal River Mountain!

Christmas time is coming around again, but before we begin decorating with lights and holly, we get to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Filled with food, family and, most importantly, thankfulness, this time of the year is one to reflect on our pasts and what we appreciate in our lives today.  Believe it or not, art is a popular way to express thankfulness to a person or group of people.

Consider memorials for example.  Most artistic and architectural memorials or other tributes were and are extremely controversial among people who live in the vicinity of the structure and others who see it.  

But how is a controversial memorial beneficial? The answer is that it generates emotion, feeling and deep-seated expectancies as to what a memorial should contain and how a memorial should represent the person or people who have dedicated and done much to benefit society.

Among the different issues regarding controversial memorials, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall is a perfect example.

Its silky smooth surface, black coloring and low to the ground stature proved to be an intriguing dilemma for viewers and skeptics of the design by Maya Lin. However, the controversy over this monument only added to its appeal and meaning as a tribute to the tens of thousands who gave their lives for the United States.

People were concerned about showing such public appreciation for the soldiers. Even more concerning was the display of appreciation for soldiers who died fighting in such a controversial war.

In any case, the wall was built to show gratitude to those soldiers who fought to defend their homeland despite judgment from critics of the war.

Another, more recent example, and perhaps one that hits closer to home for our generation, is that of the 9/11 memorial and the controversy surrounding its design. Location, as well as the proposed plan developed by Michael Arad, led to debate among architects and the families of those who died. Arad's design included deep pools that people felt would be potentially dangerous and would not commemorate the dead in the proper manner.

Nevertheless, the design was approved with only small changes made by the architects on site.  Today, we have a beautiful memorial dedicated to those who lost their lives on that terrible day.  We all remember 9/11, and even though we are in Greencastle and not gazing upon the memorial structure, we can still stop and recognize those who gave their lives not only on 9/11 but in the years following.

This Thanksgiving, you don't need to be standing in front of a memorial to realize its power. Rather, just think about one, perhaps the one that I've mentioned here, and stop for a moment to thank those that have died for our well-being.

You may not have known anyone specific in either of these tragic events but, unfortunately, they still took place, and we are all here today because of each of those individuals' bravery.

Or, if you are bored and feeling a little crafty over break, resort back to your elementary school days.

Make a little hand turkey with something you're thankful for on each finger, and don't forget to include a memorial.

— Chamberlain is a junior from Jasper, Ind. majoring in art history and English literature.

features@thedepauw.com


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