Art and graphic design student Grace Ballweg, of Platteville, explains the print she created as part of the Veteran Print Project with first-year students at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, who served in the military.

Veteran Print Project mixes art and military service

Nicholas Kuehn was 10 years old when terrorists flew into the twin towers in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001.

"That was the day I decided to join the Army," Kuehn said.
Kuehn was just a kid, watching cartoons at the time. But his resolve remained firm. At age 17, the Wausau native enlisted in the U.S. Army. He served in the 1-35 AR, the 1st Battalion 35th Armored Regiment, in Fort Bliss, Texas.
Kuehn, now a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, shared that memory earlier this year with Grace Ballweg, one of 21 student artists. Ballweg of Platteville expressed the story in a print that showed dark towers with a brightly colored screen of cartoon characters between them.
It was part of a Veteran Print Project involving students in two courses at UW-Stevens Point in the spring semester.
Many returning veterans who are new to college take a first-year seminar titled "Back from the Front: Transitioning from the Military to Civilian Life." By studying the history of veterans coming home from war, students learn how to translate skills they developed in the military to skills they need to succeed in college – and life.
David Chrisinger, a UW-Stevens Point graduate who developed and teaches the class, asked Art and Design Professor Bob Erickson about adding a new component in the spring semester. His veteran-students were paired with students in a printmaking class. The veterans each shared an experience, and the student artists created a visual representation of it.
The art was revealed and explained to students and supporters earlier this month. It will be exhibited at the Edna Carlsten Gallery in the Noel Fine Art Center Friday, June 5, through Monday, Sept. 14. Check for summer gallery hours. 
Ballweg's print captures the "all-American experience" of a TV screen with a colorful airplane on a decidedly dark moment Sept. 11, when many children and adults watched planes, hijacked by al-Qaeda terrorists, fly into the World Trade Center towers. Ballweg's print captures the innocence of childhood surrounded by the stark reality of that day, with the towers portrayed in dark chalk.
"This is an exercise in trust," said Yvette Pino, of the Wisconsin-based Veteran Print Project. "The veteran has to put trust in the artist to tell their story. The artist has to trust they're getting it right," said Pino, an Iraq war veteran who found the intersection of storytelling and art a healing place for veterans.
When Tyler Pozolinski came to UW-Stevens Point, he wasn't interested in associating with anything related to veterans. He told people he lived in California for a few years, but not at a U.S. Marine Corps base. That changed when the Neenah native took Chrisinger's "Back from the Front" class and began writing about his military experiences.
He shared a recurring nightmare with his artist partner, Emily Sikora. He described being alone in a village that lay in ruins after battle, followed by darkness pierced with a bright light and familiar voices spewing hateful comments.
Sikora created a small print on a large sheet of paper to convey his isolation and a gray color scheme to convey darkness. Multiple swirls represent the overwhelming chants that surrounded him. A Native American headdress is a symbol for his troop, the 1st Battalion, 5th Marines.
"When I think of that dream that's exactly what I see," Pozolinski said.
"We study the history of war trauma to show American veterans have always found ways to be stronger at the broken places," Chrisinger said. He and several veterans have shared reflections on a website,
Following the Carlsten Galley exhibit, the UW-Stevens Point Veteran Print Project will be on display at the Kenosha Public Museum from Saturday, July 4, to Sunday, Nov. 15.​