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A scene from Scrap Heap. Credit: Courtesy of Kevin McClatchy
A scene from Scrap Heap. Credit: Courtesy of Kevin McClatchy

Symposium tells veterans’ war stories through art

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Ohio State’s Department of Theatre worked with campus military services and personnel to investigate the lasting effects of war on individuals and communities using the arts.

As a result, the “Responsibility, Morality and the Costs of War” symposium will take place from Thursday through Saturday in the Drake Performance and Event Center. The symposium will look at the toll war takes on society and the men and women who defend America in combat through works of visual and performing arts coupled with leading research.

Although Kevin McClatchy, assistant professor in the theatre department and co-director of the symposium, never personally served in the military, he witnessed the aftermath of combat through the experiences of his father, a close childhood friend, and a nephew.

“Emotionally, it’s been an interest of mine,” McClatchy said. “It’s permeated my life and, obviously it sort of touches everybody in some way, but those are the three sort of a triangle (that is) the closest I’ve gotten to personal experience, and that’s a driving force for me.”

The “Costs of War” symposium is composed of a mix of interactive and engaging artistic elements blended with more traditional symposium features, such as panel discussions, a keynote speaker and talks given by combat veterans and veteran advocates,  McClatchy said.

Lt. Col. Jim Bunyak, the director of the Military Science and Leadership Department, and commander of OSU’s Army ROTC, said that in his 18 years of military service, the symposium will be his first experience where the arts are used to tell the story of war and the military.

“When I was approached by Kevin, I was a little surprised because you don’t always think of art with military, but there is an art and science to leadership,” Bunyak said. “So the pairing together, while it may not be the norm, it’s a great thing because it gives us the opportunity to look at the military and war from different views, not just the military standpoint or the political standpoint.”

During the symposium, Bunyak will be on the panel called “Just War and the Emotional Factors in Leadership Decision-Making” to discuss his time in Iraq and Afghanistan, while some of the 160 OSU ROTC cadets he oversees will perform poetry and Afghan folklore.

Col. Mike Carrell, assistant provost for undergraduate education, director of the Office of Military & Veterans Services and panelist for the event, said the symposium fulfills his office’s goals to support military-related students and educate faculty and staff members on veteran-related issues on campus.

“(McClatchy’s) goal of starting a conversation, if you will, in the community I think is wonderful,” Carrell said. “A lot of times the only things people hear about the military folks is either they’re great heroes, like some movies you might watch, or they’re all damaged, like some other movies that you might watch. But the truth is that most people are somewhere in between.”

Given OSU’s sizeable student and faculty veteran population, McClatchy said he hopes the symposium entertains the audience while also motivating them to be aware of and engaged with military veterans in the community and the issues they face.

The accessible nature of the arts makes it a good tool to bridge the information gap and bring together civilians and veterans, Carrell said.

“I think everyone can relate to the arts, whether it’s theater or movies or traditional art like sculptures and paintings,” Carrell said. “It’s a nice way for veterans to express their thoughts and feelings through artistic mediums.”

While the symposium is free and open to the public, registration is required and can be done on the Department of Theatre’s website.

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