Because we want to work on telling stories from a variety of dimensions, we want to include in the programming methods that can help us reach war veterans and families of war veterans who may not be comfortable telling their story in an oral history or in writing form. Michael Strand is an exciting ceramics artist who has evolved into a community engagement practitioner. The goal of this strand of the programming would be to conduct ceramics workshops that enable participants to tell their stories through the creative process of creating a tangible product such as a bowl or cup. We are excited about this strand of the project because it is new and we want to use this as an exploratory experience with the goal of developing it more broadly after the granting period.
Fargo veteran and artist, Josh Zeis, along with Fargo artist and NDSU faculty member Michael Strand, have hosted unique ceramic workshops for veterans and families of veterans who served in the military. The workshop have created special family heirloom cups to commemorate or remember military service. The process has been simple: participants are asked to bring objects of importance related to military service. From keepsakes for family members to remind them of those who are serving overseas, to medals and “talismans” – small objects are often strong placeholders of memory. These objects have been impressed and altered premade cups to form custom objects along with letters that were pressed into the surface.
For example, one recent workshop participant brought in “dog tags” from their grandfather’s service in World War II, the tags were beautifully captured in the surface of the clay, creating a unique family heirloom.
We then asked the participants to capture the story of these objects via written text in an easy process that helped tell the story of what is impressed into the surface. Selected objects are part of an exhibition from December 2016-January 2017, that share with the public these stories.