Shaun Giles is Assistant Director for Community Engagement in the Frist Center for the Visual Arts’ Education Department. Among the many hats he wears is that of mentor to talented interns who come to the Frist to hone their skills and gain valuable experience that can often change their lives. This Fall semester, Fisk University sophomore Ja’Sun Kennedy wrote a poignant essay about his experience as one of Shaun’s interns with the great folks at the Frist.
“All of the staff at the Frist come to work every day with the knowledge that someone’s life could be changed by what they do, and it was certainly the case with Ja’Sun,” says Giles. “Ja’Sun’s time with us during the World War I and American Art exhibition, which will continue on view through January 21, was an opportunity for him to bring his passion and his personal goals into alignment.”
His own essay tells the story:
Essay by Ja’Sun Kennedy
The World War I and American Art exhibition currently on view at the Frist Center highlights American artists’ responses to the Great War. Artists like George Bellows, Marsden Hartley, Georgia O’Keeffe, Horace Pippin, and Claggett Wilson gave form to issues and opinions around the war. They captured the war effort from many perspectives, whether as soldiers from the battlefield or concerned citizens stateside.
Seeing this exhibition from my perspective as a clinical psychology major with an interest in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression, I found works by Horace Pippin particularly interesting. His art is a portrayal of what he experienced as a soldier in the 369th Infantry. Also known as the Harlem Hellfighters, the 369th Infantry was the first African American regiment to serve with the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. After being seriously injured, and losing use of his right arm, he used art to come to terms with his wartime experience. The self-taught artist would paint with his right hand by guiding his arm with his left hand. Along with his depictions of war, he was known for his portraits and images of African American domestic life.
As a student at Fisk University studying clinical psychology, I have a personal interest in issues of PTSD and depression faced by many people today. Even though it is usually associated with soldiers, anyone can suffer from PTSD and depression. There are people close to me who have these disorders and my goal is to assist them and others who struggle with these issues.
I’m especially glad to see the Frist Center offer the lecture “Warrior Brain to Artist Brain” by Richard Casper on Saturday, November 18 at 11:00 A.M. Richard is a USMC combat veteran and co-founder of CreatiVets, a nonprofit organization that creates a safe, communal environment for veterans to make art and music. In his lecture he explores his own journey to recovery. During a tour of duty in Iraq, Casper was hit in four separate IED (Improvised Explosive Device) explosions that resulted in traumatic brain injuries and PTSD. Like Horace Pippin, art became a valuable part of his life and healing.