None of these aspiring artists have seen their work displayed outside their families’ homes.
Beginning Friday, hand-blown glass crafted by almost 30 Quad-City military veterans will be featured at the Quad-City Arts gallery in The District of Rock Island for a six-week showing.
The nonprofit organization connected with Hot Glass, a not-for-profit glassblowing business in downtown Davenport, which partnered with the Quad-Cities Vets Center last fall.
Artist Joel Ryser, executive director of the studio, led free classes for veterans thanks to grant donations he received from various community organizations.
He thinks the upcoming show will help boost the veterans' self-esteem. Many of them battle bouts of anxiety, anger or depression associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.
“A lot of these people never did artwork before and don’t go to galleries,” he said. “It’s just a new experience that is going to enhance what I’ve done with them already.”
Mark Van Osdel became one of the first veterans to learn under Ryser and his son, Logan, at their workshop at 104 Western Ave.
And it didn't take long for the U.S. Army and Navy veteran, who spent about 14 months in Iraq during 2007 and 2008, to get hooked on shaping molten glass.
He has a vase in the exhibit, but it’s not for sale.
“I made it for my sister,” said Van Osdel, who does not consider himself an “art exhibit person.”
Friday will mark his first visit to the Quad-City Arts Center.
The presentation will include a glass cast of a soldier's helmet, etched with the initials of veterans who participated in the project, as well as decorative pieces completed by the Rysers and other instructors.
Paintings by David Gregory of Peoria, and Lianne Westcot of Solon, Iowa, also will accompany the arrangement, which will remain at the gallery until Aug. 18.
Dawn Wohlford-Metallo, visual arts director for Quad-City Arts, said she is setting up the temporary collection this week.
“We were looking for somebody to add some color to the exhibit, and they had the work," she said. "It seemed like a perfect storm."
Collaborating with Hot Glass, Wohlford-Metallo added, directly fits in with Quad-City Arts' mission to promote area artists.
"It's not very often we have the opportunity to display works by under-served populations in our gallery just because it's not always easy to find those people," she said.
Every year, the organization spotlights seven exhibits at its gallery in Rock Island and six exhibits at its gallery at the Quad-City International Airport in Moline.