ArtServe’s Tribute to Veterans: An Exhibit Rooted in History and Heroism

With an Honor Guard welcome by the Fort Lauderdale Navy League Sea Cadets who in turn were saluted by a standing-room-only crowd in attendance, ArtServe opened its new art show on July 21, 2023 titled “Veterans’ Exhibit—a Family Perspective,” featuring over 50 artworks by distinguished local artists like George Gadson and Marilyn Johansen.  

The evening coincided with the 93rd Anniversary of the creation of the U.S. Department of Veterans Administration, an act that forever changed how Americans cared for our veterans after their active service was completed.  The ArtServe exhibit’s theme of caring for veterans also underscored imperatives in the June 9, 2023 presidential executive order on “Advancing Economic Security for Military and Veteran Spouses, Military Caregivers, and Survivors.” 

The “Veterans’ Exhibit” opening night reception began with a panel discussion on veterans’ challenges as they transition back into civilian life.  Speakers included VIP military veterans Brig. Gen. Richard Dix; Mission United co-founder Stephen Moss, a Vietnam veteran; Broward County Veterans Services Director Owen Walker; and foreign affairs advisor Duilia Turner, a former Air Force Lieutenant Colonel who served as Chief of Women, Peace, and Security at U.S. Southern Command.  Moderated by Mission United director James Heaton, each panelist discussed his or her own transition from military life. 

Along with the panel, the evening featured several presentations, including:  

Retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel Thaddeus Hamilton, who talked about the Tuskeegee Airman Major Leo Gray and shared various artifacts illustrating the heroic contributions of Gray’s fellow African American military bomber pilots and airmen who fought in World War II.  

Artist George Gadson, who focuses his work on restoring the forgotten history found in many communities and capturing their civic memories through creative design works for public spaces, presented his sculpture of a Buffalo Soldier, which is on loan to ArtServe throughout the Veterans’ exhibit. “Buffalo Soldiers” were formerly enslaved African-American United States Army regiments formed during the 19th century to serve on the American frontier.  Because they often wore buffalo skins to stay warm, they became known as “Buffalo Soldiers.”  

Artist Marilyn Johansen presented her portrait of Ed Morse—a decorated lieutenant and aviator in World War II who founded the now-national Ed Morse Automotive Group in 1946—to his grandson, Teddy, who was in attendance. 

“Veterans’ Exhibition: A Family Perspective” is now open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturdays until Monday, September 11.  Admission is always free.  ArtServe is located at 1350 E. Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale.  

ArtServe inspires, supports and advances its diverse members, artists and the community by promoting artistic development, education and prosperity through the exploration and presentation of the visual and performing arts.   

 Fort Lauderdale-based ArtServe is an award-winning arts incubator that is advancing the arts for social good as a creative laboratory and hub for experimental artists committed to diversity, equity and inclusion. Now in its 35th year, ArtServe has won several awards for innovation in the arts and is supported in part by the Broward County Board of County Commissioners as recommended by the Broward Cultural Council and Florida’s Department of State and the Division of Cultural Affairs.