On 9/11, the tragic time struck artist Eileen Schwartz particularly hard. Living in San Diego, she was “so upset by the events of the day” that she felt the need to immediately do something. “There was patriotism all around, flags everywhere, cars painted with flags, faces painted with flags,” she said. Schwartz wanted to capture the images of the moment.
With the work and help of others, her intentions and photographs turned into what became approximately 400 snapshots and the basis of an art gallery show. Creating a nonprofit organization called “Flags Across the Nation,” which also added the display of children’s pictures and then quilts soon followed. The work forever linked her to vets and their families across the country. To date, she’s curated/created 65 shows or events from San Diego to Charlotte; she continues to receive letters from military personnel across the country, currently or previously deployed.
Five years ago (now living in Charlotte), she and her nonprofit group wanted to branch out in other directions - the art class for military personnel, “Art for Veterans,” was born. Offered weekly from September to June, anyone who has served in the military can come to the McDowell Arts Center in Matthews for (up to) three hours each Wednesday (noon to 3 p.m.). The classes and materials are free. At least 10-20 men and women (currently ages 25-94) come to quietly work on (a variety of) artwork and paintings.
“I wanted to make a safe space for veterans who wanted to come to paint,” said Schwartz, explaining that some people need to de-stress, some people are there to learn techniques and some people want to be around other veterans. “Everyone is here for a different reason,” she said.