(Part 2) Wisconsin veterans have a rich and storied history, one that is worth capturing and protecting for future generations. The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an organization that does just that -- through a combination of oral history, visual arts, and asset preservation. Join us as we chat with Curator of Veteran Art and US Army veteran Yvette Pino.
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Today on Wisconsin veterans forward part two of our three part dialogue with Avette Pino , the curator of veteran art for the Wisconsin veterans museum over there in Madison. It's a great organization, great people over there. If you haven't seen this museum, it's spectacular, but Yvette is talking about her personal journey , uh, with the military and with the arts and how she now in her position uses collaborations between veterans and artists and recording the recording of oral history to help veterans tell their stories and achieve peace and healing after service and to bridge , uh , bridge a gap between and the veteran community. It's really interesting stuff. We're gonna get into it right after this, you are listening to Wisconsin veterans forward. Wisconsin's premier audio resource for veterans, military families, veteran owned and veteran friendly businesses. Wisconsin veterans forward is brought to you by the Wisconsin veterans chamber of firstname.lastname@example.org . So, so art school with the intent and purpose of doing arts curation or arts administration, or what you just wanted to get involved in the arts.Speaker 2:
Yeah, I wanted to get back to, to what I has always been my sanctuary. Uh , I I've , I've been able to draw since I get hold a pencil, and that was not only my sanctuary for a career path in getting back to the arts, but , uh, I , I , I do think it saved my life. It , it , it saved me from falling into a very deep depression. Um, and I went back to community college. So I'm, I'm an really big advocate of community college because it was , um, especially for military members coming out because it was a , a diversity of people of age, rank backgrounds, similar to a military experience. And , uh , uh , you have people at community college for all kinds of different reasons and was able to have a really smooth, a much more smooth transition out of the military. Uh , and I went to St. Louis community college and discovered printmaking, which was the one medium I hadn't done before. And I fell in military . That's really ,Speaker 1:
That's super interesting. And , and I guess I never considered that. I know a lot of folks when they come back from service, if they use their GI bill to go to a traditional, like a four year university mm-hmm <affirmative> , um, I feel like, and this is obviously just a feeling I don't have any data to back it up, but it seems to me like 80% of the people are okay with it, but they can't stand being around a bunch of 18 year old kids. Yeah . Who don't have the same experience . Like it's like living on a different planet with people that you can't relate to. And again, this isn't a personal experience in mine , but that's just what several people, many people have expressed to me. And I think you're , I think you've got a point that community college, obviously people go to that for different reasons and in different stages of their careers are in a career transition. So mm-hmm , <affirmative> , that may be a better fit for veterans.Speaker 2:
It's an incredible fit for veterans. And I think it helps give you that sort of bridge to entering back to university. One of the things I have learned curating work and learning about veteran art artists , uh, over the course of time is that, you know, post world war II, we had this generation of GI bill of, of veterans using the GI bill really for the first time , um , in, in mass and the artists that went back have a really unique experience because art school, you, you know, artists are think a little bit differently in general, right? But like you put an artist who thinks a little bit differently, but also has the life experience of whether it's combat or that military experience. And they just have a different, I think, discipline than what your 18 or 19 year old art student has. And that's, that's not, you know, anything against the kids that are in art school, just different , just different. I love their creativity, but I think post nine 11 veterans are giving the world war II veterans to run for their money in terms of returning to universities in , you know, in large groups to study and they're focused on their degree. They don't, they're not there to party. They're not there to, to have that, you know, young experience, theSpeaker 1:
College experience. Yeah.Speaker 2:
Yeah. And so the, what happens is doors get opened up before them because they wanna work and the professors can see that. And so they sort of hand them the keys to the kingdom. And if you're willing and wanting you , you usually can move forward. That's not always the case. You still have to work for it and , and communicate your wants and needs. But I think that there's a lot of us that return back to school with a , a very specific vision in , in how we need to proceed or what we need. Uh, it depends on what your goal or focus is. Um, right.Speaker 1:
Well, so, so you finished art school mm-hmm <affirmative> and you said it was St. Louis area. Mm-hmm <affirmative> what brought you to Wisconsin and how did you connect with the Wisconsin veterans museum?Speaker 2:
Yeah, I actually took two years at community college and then , uh , my spouse got, we , we got Reed to Madison for okay . For their employment. And so , um, I was, it was perfect timing. It was my two years at community college was complete mm-hmm <affirmative> so I was ready to finish my bachelor's and I had, I had almost finished a bachelor's before I became a professional Stagen. Um, so I just needed to finish my degree mm-hmm <affirmative> um , and it was perfect timing for transition. I honestly moved to Madison, not realizing the level of institution, like , uh , the university of Wisconsin. Madison is , uh , a lot of folks were surprised I got in on my first try and I was like, it's a state school. I don't understand what, what the deal is. And then, you know, really quickly I understood the caliber of institution that the university of Wisconsin is. Um , and we are the number one ,Speaker 1:
Not easy to get into that'sSpeaker 2:
For sure. Right . And we're , we're the number one print making , uh , institution in the country. We've still hold that rank, which was funded by these leg. Yeah. By these legacy world war II veterans that established a monumental program here in the Midwest. Um, so we still hold the rank of number one. So I literally out of serendipity ended up in a Nu , not a incredible university, but also a incredible printmaking , um , uh , museum , uh , excuse me , um, school. And while I was looking for work study , uh, I found a flyer hanging up that said , uh , veteran work study at the Wisconsin veterans museum. You can use your , you can have veteran work study and, you know, report to the research center at the Wisconsin veterans museum. And I , I was like, what's, what's this museum. And I was really pleasantly surprised by the amazing museum that the , that the Wisconsin veterans museum is. It was , uh , it's incredible. I should , I shouldn't be so shocked, but we really are one of the, one of the, if not the best statewide veteran museums across the country. Uh , and you , you opened up really well with a wonderful introduction. I thank you for that, but it , I , I , I think it holds true. The sentiment holds true. It's a , mm-hmm , <affirmative> , it's an incredible institution. I went and , uh , signed up for the veteran work study and what was nice. I could do my veteran work study and that didn't take away from my Scholastic work study. So I could still do federal work study. Uh , I was able to work at the chase museum of art as the assistant and curator of education. Yeah . While I came. And then I did time at the , the veterans museum and that opened up the whole new world of curatorial process collections management , um, what the behind the scenes of, of a museum was exposed to me that I, most people don't know all the, what goes on behind the scenes, which is an incredible amount of right . Administrative and organizational support, just to see the like 1% of the museum's collection is on display, you know, 2%.Speaker 1:
Oh man, there's, there's so much behind it. I , and so, so for people watching, who may not know mm-hmm <affirmative>, what is an art curator? What does an art curator do?Speaker 2:
Uh, my primary role is to research the role of the veteran artist. Uh, we are a veteran's museum. So our work is to tell the story. Every veteran is a story with specifically Wisconsin veterans. Now I research veteran artists from around the country, but my primary goal is to seek and find out about all I can about Wisconsin veteran and their art practice veterans and their art practice. Uh, and there is a wealth of information out there, but what I found is we, we , we recent , oh, I , I guess I should preface that by a research. And then that research leads to putting together the stories that we wanna tell for exhibition per . So for example, Harold Schmitz, Milwaukee native , uh , world war II veteran served in the nine 55th topographical engineer company in world war II. Mm-hmm <affirmative> . His daughter brought his collection, his sketchbook that she found , uh, to the museum and, and we assessed it into our collection. And , uh, Harold Hasson's passed on, but we, we worked with his family ex for a long , for a two year process to learn about these drawings, learn about his background, learn about who he was, learn about who the nine 55th topographical engineers were. And we were then able to put his artwork on exhibit, like you would think of any art exhibit, but what makes us unique in the way we're learning new ways to tell the veteran story is you can put the piece of artwork, but then you can put it next to , um, the tools that were used by the map makers in the field , the cardiographic engineers to make the maps and show what Harold did while he was in the south Pacific . Uh , at the same time he was making these drawings, right? So his drawings may have nothing to do with the war. They might just be land these beautiful landscape drawings, but they have so much to do the subject is influenced by your surroundings, right? And that's part of his story. So that's, my job is to figure out where the stories are, how they can be presented in a way that allows for conversations to happen and to create more dialogues , uh, you know, maybe other veterans come in and say new Caledonia. I remember my grandfather telling me about every service member that, that was shipped in past the , the lighthouse and new Ionia. This is a drawing that was in Harold's sketchbook, you know, prompted story after story that maybe they never even met Harold, but now we have these new stories of other Wisconsin veterans , uh, that pass through that same path. Uh that's what artwork can do, both , you know, we talk , I'm talking about visual artwork, but my role also ,Speaker 1:
Yeah . It's not just visual artwork , right? I mean, it's , yeah . If anyone's ever been to this museum, you've seen it. It's not just visual art, but you actually, like, you have a, a, a library of oral history that you've recorded. And then you also have asset acquisition. Like you have uniforms of different branches throughout out history , uh , that, that, you know, a Wisconsin service member would have worn during X conflict. And, and, you know, you've , you've got planes inside of the, like, you have all sorts of different assets. Can you tell us about what it's like collecting all of those different disparate items? Uh, and, and is it, is it fun? Is it grueling? Is it hard? Is it challenging? Does , do you just happen upon things? Or how does that work?Speaker 2:
I think the most difficult challenge we face is the reality is we can't take everything, right. I mean, I think every possession to each veteran is special to them, but , uh, you get to a certain point in collections where you, you literally can't keep every single medallion that somebody had or every single object. And so the fun part, but the most challenging part is finding the story that's attached to the object that makes that stand out. Right. And, and doing so respectfully without negating a service member's experience, right. Saying we have a thousand world war II uniforms. I'm , that's not a , a number I'm just throwing. YouSpeaker 1:
Have a literal thousand .Speaker 2:
No, I mean, we , I , I , that's what I'm saying. No, don't quote me on . Oh , it's not I'm , I , I , I , I'm just saying, like, we have so many of certain objects at a certain point. We won't col continue to collect that , uh, unless there's a specific story attached to it, right? Like verifiable story too. I mean, it's history, we're telling history and we wanna tell , uh , a genuine story as well. Uh, but the thing that is, I think most rewarding now is that we are looking at the collection as a whole and saying whose voices aren't being told whose voices still need to be there. Um, and starting a process of active collecting, which means going out and saying, you know, women should be represented too . The Latinx community should be represented too . And it's not because they don't exist. It's because we need to actively seek out the stories to tell a more diverse story. Um, and we are doing that and we're , and we're, we're making great strides. Uh, and I think that there's a ton of different outreach opportunities to do that. I , I personally always use the artwork because we, we , we are able to make those connections with people. Um, but yeah, we, I think it's just a fun part is going to our state archival preservation facility, which is where everything is housed, which is brand new. It's only a few years old and we share it with the Wisconsin historical society and to see all the objects you don't see on exhibit in the museum , um ,Speaker 1:
That must be fun.Speaker 2:
It is fun. And it's a little overwhelming sometimes. And I think for me as a veteran, what makes it special, but also a little challenging is that you realize no matter what generation or no matter what gender, oftentimes we have the same stories as others that came before us. And as special as that is to have that connection, you sometimes it's hard for me to realize the cyclical nature of military service,Speaker 1:
Very compelling stuff. We're gonna continue this in the third and final part of our chat with the vet Pino from Wisconsin veterans museum in the very next episode, which is sitting there waiting for you of Wisconsin veterans forward. We'll see you over there. Thank you for listening to Wisconsin veterans forward, brought to you by the Wisconsin veterans chamber of commerce. Please visit email@example.com . Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast, leave a rating and review in whatever platform you're listening through.