2015 HERO[series]

Grand Rapids, Michigan, U.S.A.

Video by: Sawyer Thurston

Veterans: 

Bill Lanford
John Vandermeulen
Terry Brown
Larry Noragon
Eric Ensley

Artists: 

Terrance Weinzierl
Emily Watz Bode
Andrew Kelly
Drew Vanderveen
Joe Morris

Video: Sawyer Thurston
Photo: Sawyer Thurston
Portraits: Adam Bird

Venue: A.K. Rikk’s
Partners: AIGA West Michigan

PARACHUTE FLOWERS

Veteran: Bill Lanford, US Army 
Artist: Terrance Weinzierl

With a passion for his career in the military, Vietnam veteran Bill Lanford is a man that is always at the ready with a good story.

From his time as a paratrooper to his life as a military recruiter, Lanford’s passion for working with others towards accomplishing a shared goal is evident throughout his life’s journey.

He has always been at the ready to coach others – whether literally as a football coach, or figuratively as he so willingly shares his wisdom and worthy advice with others.

Lanford’s story shifts from surviving the chaos of war in Vietnam to a well-earned peaceful retirement of operating flower shops with his wife.

Terrance Weinzierl channels this contrast through the image of parachutes mimicking lotus flowers – both reminiscent of Bill’s military time and the fruitful life that has followed thereafter.

As part of the Alpha Industries x [HAS HEART] capsule collection to kick-off the 50 States: Veterans + Artists United tour, Alpha Industries has produced a limited number of HERO[series] designs into t-shirts, embroidered patches, and jackets. Click the shirt image below to purchase “Parachute Flowers” via AlphaIndustries.com

*(25% of proceeds will benefit Veteran, Bill Lanford directly)*

NO MAN LEFT BEHIND

Veteran: John Vandermeulen
Artist: Emily Watz Bode

During his time in Vietnam, John Vandermeulen learned the importance of never leaving any man behind.

His work with the Huey helicopters, which have become so symbolic of the Vietnam War, is indicative of his role as a man whose contribution was the deciding factor in keeping so many soldiers alive.

Despite his booming voice and the presence it creates, Vandermeulen’s deep appreciation of nature reveals that there is always more than what meets the eye.

Vandermeulen’s shirt juxtaposes the toughness of his work in Vietnam alongside a softness that comes from his appreciation of nature.

As one of the many veterans that were exposed to Agent Orange, Vandermeulen has multiple health related issues. In her design, Emily Watz captured his story through a depiction how the cycle of life, can be both beautiful and gradually crippling.

As part of the Alpha Industries x [HAS HEART] capsule collection to kick-off the 50 States: Veterans + Artists United tour, Alpha Industries has produced a limited number of HERO[series] designs into t-shirts, embroidered patches, and jackets. Click the product image below to purchase via AlphaIndustries.com

*(25% of proceeds will benefit the Veteran, John Vandermeulen directly)*

WISDOM IN BALANCE

Veteran: Larry Noragon
Artist: Drew Vanderveen

Ultimately deciding not to join the Air Force, Larry Noragon was then drafted into the Marine Corps where he served as a rifleman in the Vietnam War.

That fateful push toward his enrollment shaped Noragon’s image as a Veteran later on in life, as throughout the design process, he tended to be more reserved with information regarding his wartime experience.

Throughout his service, all that mattered to him was working towards getting his buddies home safely, which is something he still carries with him to this day.

Drew VanderVeen crafted Noragon’s design with his unfavorable draft story in mind. The towering depiction of a bird of prey over-shadows the smaller images of doves, representing the potential for peace to escape from within war.

VanderVeen sought to also represent Noragon’s and countless other veterans’ struggles in communicating about their service through the representation of redacted information, potentially prohibiting their ability for complete inner peace.

Together, these interpretations of Noragon’s story demonstrate a war perspective that is often overlooked: fleeting moments of peace overshadowed by constant struggles for total freedom.

As part of the Alpha Industries x [HAS HEART] capsule collection to kick-off the 50 States: Veterans + Artists United tour, Alpha Industries has produced a limited number of HERO[series] designs into t-shirts, embroidered patches, and jackets. Click the shirt image below to purchase “Wisdom in Balance” via AlphaIndustries.com

*(25% of proceeds will benefit the Veteran, Larry Noragon directly)*

FINAL ACT OF DEFIANCE

Veteran: Terry Brown, US Army 
Artist: Andrew Kelly

As a man that has a distinct humble spirit, it’s surprising to imagine Terry Brown in a position of handling cover fire as a Huey helicopter door gunner as well as a field mechanic deep within the Vietnam War.

Brown fixed broken down vehicles, incinerated the unsalvageable materials, and stripped out what he and his unit could re-use.

He found his rhythm among the horrors of war that surrounded him and felt as if he accomplished something bigger than himself while he aided his unit.

Andrew Kelly took the approach of deconstructing the Huey helicopters that Brown became so familiar with throughout his service. This design demonstrates the overwhelming commotion of Brown’s faithful service.

As the pieces of the broken chopper are examined more in depth, the contents clearly begin to symbolize Brown’s life in the U.S. Army.

If you look closely enough, you’ll find his last great act of defiance.

COURAGE SANS PEUR

Veteran: Eric Ensley, Michigan National Guard
Artist: Joe Morris

With two tours under his belt, one in Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and the other in Afghanistan for Operation Enduring Freedom, Sergeant Eric Ensley said himself that it’s “amazing he’s still alive.”

Throughout his tours, Ensley believed that the reason he and his squad survived was because of God’s protection — down to the smallest of moments, including when one of his soldiers was randomly stung by a bee before he was about to ram in a door unknowingly booby-trapped with explosives.

After witnessing first-hand the impact that time in the service has on the men and women who endure it, Ensley wanted his design to honor that warrior spirit.

Through the design process with Joe Morris, the two sought out to honor the human behind the warrior — a hardened mask that they must learn to remove in order to successfully return to life as a civilian.

The burden and pain of war, the relief and peace of returning home, and the bond of brotherhood were all key components embedded within Ensley’s design.

BEHIND-THE-PROCESS

The 2015 HERO[series] project partnered five Veterans, four of whom served in Vietnam (three of those lived at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans) with five AIGA West Michigan design members. This marked the first AIGA chapter partnership, initiating a template to be built and an example to be followed for future AIGA chapters.

Instead of a week-long project like in past years, since all the Veterans and designers were from the West Michigan area, the project was condensed into a two day design process.

The Event Space at A.K. Rikk’s, a luxury retailer of men’s and women’s clothing, was transformed into a creative collaborative studio with the help of FLOR carpet tiles, Herman Miller furniture provided by MarxModa, a coffee bar brewed by Rowster Coffee and personal barista Andrew Rottier, and lunch provided both days by local favorite, Saburba.

ARTPRIZE 2015

The building at the Veterans Memorial Park was supposed to be under construction, so for ArtPrize 2015, [HAS HEART] relocated to occupy and self-renovate a vacant retail space attached to the Harris Building.

A small group of volunteers helped clean, paint, and prep the space to be transformed in a gallery and retail shop for the organization.

 BEFORE: 

 AFTER: 

Store Photos by: Adam Bird