The Highground Veterans Memorial Park participates in art tour

Published: Apr. 25, 2021 at 5:36 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - This weekend the Highground Veterans Memorial Park participated as a venue in the Clark County Spring into the Arts tour. All of the participating artists were Wisconsin veterans.

“We’re very happy to put out the offer to military veteran artists to come and join us with their craftwork,” said Museum Director Theresa Hebert.

One Vietnam veteteran started his artwork as an answer to covid-19 cabin fever. A builder for 40 years by trade, he funneled his creativity into quirky garden art.

“I got sick of watching tv and eating, so I figured I needed a hobby and went down to my basement and started making birdhouses,” said veteran Merle Retzlaff.

Retzlaff says the care that comes from places like the Highground is vital.

“I was one of the lucky ones that didn’t have that PTSD, you know, but a lot of them do and they need a lot of help.”

Another artist, this one an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, agrees.

“You know the old generation of veterans and the new generation of veterans, I think that once you get out on the civilian side I think there’s that disconnect, and I think that they help bring the generations together with everything that they do,” said veteran Ashley Spangberg. Spangberg makes jewelry using spent shell casings, and has lately begun to dabble in watercolors marked by images made by igniting gunpowder.

Hebert says the art tour has special meaning for veterans.

“We know that through our veteran retreats that a lot of the veterans have told us that healing through the arts is a major thing that’s helped them in their day to day lives,” she said.

The Highground is using this opportunity to provide that outlet for veterans.

“We have had the opportunity to put together sort of gift bags, we call them ‘try it’ bags that have samples and instructions of all of those art forms for free from the Highground for any veterans that visit us this weekend,” Hebert said.

The bags contain lots of ways to provide visual art from adult coloring to watercolor paints, colored pencils and instructions on how to do a form of concentrated doodling.

“And then hopefully they get home and they find something that really clicks with them, gives them a lot of enjoyment, takes their mind off other issues that might be going on or just adds a little fun to their day,” Hebert said.

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