Kirsten Jane Brown
CREATIVITY IN CAMOUFLAGE
This collection represents a connection between the Central Coast’s Art and Military histories and provides an unusual glimpse at military training from a psychological point of view. It presents the formal display of Fort Ord’s surviving collection of handmade items in collaboration with The National Steinbeck Center. Additionally, it follows my own creative development as a curator from idea inception to exhibition execution.
As a lifelong resident of Monterey County with far reaching family ties to the United States military, I developed a sense of pride and ownership in the collection and became inspired to narrate this element of local history for the public as part of our local collective heritage. I discovered the underground collection of soldier’s artworks while studying museum preservation and conservation at CSUMB.
The “Arts and Crafts Program” was a section of the Special Services established in 1944 to address the matter of morale and as a response to soldiers’ interest in creative arts recreation. Its goal was to stimulate, develop, and maintain the mental and physical well being of the military community by facilitating participation in a variety of recreation activities during off-duty hours. Initial class offerings included drawing, painting, sculpture and photography. In 1951, the program was renamed the “Army Crafts Program” and expanded to include ceramics, metalwork, leather crafts, model building, woodworking, and automotive repair in addition to previous offerings, all of which were available on Fort Ord as choices within its 2,500 classes per year. All artwork in the exhibit was created by Vietnam War era soldiers who participated in the Fort Ord “Arts and Crafts Program”. Most of the artists and the exact dates of creation are unknown. It is likely that many of these pieces were created by soldiers who were in transition on their way to war, some of whom never returned.