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WNC seeks community support for exhibit

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal
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What started out as a class project at the local college has grown into an intimate look into the War on Terror that has gained national attention.

Organizers are asking the community to help turn the popular exhibit into a traveling display.

“Always Lost: A Meditation on War,” began as a collaboration between two Western Nevada College professors. Don Carlson assigned his sociology students to collect statistics and analyze war from a social perspective.

Marilee Swirczek’s writing students reacted to the photos and data through poetry and prose.

Kevin Burns, a student and former Marine, lead the effort to find a photo of every person killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has continued to do so even after the exhibit was taken down.

What started as 2,300 casualties has now reached 5,000.

“We have spent thousands of hours finding the faces of those killed in the wars for the Wall of the Dead,” he said. “We are diligent. It has become our mission to ensure we include photos of all the service men and women who have given their lives.”

The exhibit was on display at the college last summer and gained momentum as others heard about it.

Veterans attending the college volunteered to tell their own stories through photos and prose.

The mother of Spc. Noah Pierce, who took his own life after returning from two tours in Iraq, heard about the project in Minnesota and contacted organizers to include her son’s story.

“Thus, what began as a consideration of the effects of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on the U.S. population evolved into a powerful meditation on the effects of war on the individual – on each of us,” Swirczek said. “‘Always Lost’ has become a sacred space in which to contemplate the personal costs and collective sacrifice of these particular conflicts, and consequently, of all wars.”

After an overwhelming response from the community, the show, which was scheduled end Aug. 14, 2009, was extended until Sept. 3, 2009.

Not only was it well received locally, but across the country as well.

“Colleges, universities, veterans’ organizations, and others from across the country began to submit requests for ‘Always Lost'” Swirczek said..

She is working with Burns and other committee members to transform the show into a traveling exhibit, with interest from as far away as Canada and Minnesota to just up the road at the University of Nevada, Reno.

“For a small school to be able to give something to the universities across the country is humbling,” said Anne Hansen, spokeswoman for the college. “What I like about it most is it’s a teaching and learning experience. Isn’t that why we’re here?”

The Nevada Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts have awarded WNC a grant to support the project. However, the funding requires that 100 percent of the $3,051 grant award be matched through community donations.

Volunteers are working to keep the images current and prepare the show for transport.

Donors are needed to help fund the remounting and packing of the images and literary works for shipping and display. To donate, go to http://www.wnc.edu/foundation or contact the WNC Foundation at 445-3240. Reference the “Always Lost” campaign.