Veterans' Voices: Painted Realities

Virtual Exhibition Open Now

Tomorrow will be better as long as America keeps alive the ideals of freedom and a better life.

Walt Disney

Veterans are the light at the tip of the candle, illuminating the way for the whole nation. If veterans can achieve awareness, transformation, understanding and peace, they can share with the rest of society the realities of war.

Thich Nhat Hanh

Virtual Exhibition Opening
Memorial Day, Mon, May 31 | 11am PT
FREE, No Sign-up Required
Program hosted on Facebook and YouTube

The Walt Disney Family Museum is pleased to debut its fifth Community Access Exhibition, Veterans’ Voices: Painted Realities, featuring original artworks by U.S. military veterans. The exhibition will serve as a platform for the American veteran’s voice to be heard through their own words and creativity, rather than from depictions by non-veteran artists. Veterans’ Voices: Painted Realities will be on view in the museum’s Lower Lobby Gallery, with admission free for active and retired military personnel, as well as their spouses and dependents with valid ID. Beginning Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, the exhibition will also be available to view in a 360-degree virtual 3D environment on this webpage.

Inspiration for this year’s Community Access Exhibition came in part from Walt Disney’s service in the Red Cross Ambulance Corps in France during World War I, and from his Studios’ extensive contributions to the Allies’ World War II efforts. Veterans’ Voices will run also concurrently with the museum’s upcoming major special exhibition, The Walt Disney Studios & World War II, opening soon in the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall.

To reach artists from the veterans’ community, The Walt Disney Family Museum partnered with Veterans Alley, a non-profit mural project in San Francisco’s Tenderloin District. Artist, Navy veteran, and founder of Veterans Alley, Amos Gregory, led this art-making initiative with a peer-to-peer approach. “For over 18 months, I engaged my fellow veterans in the creation of artwork designed to uplift their voices and tell stories unheard by the general public. We worked with three distinct communities of veterans: African American veterans living in the San Francisco Bay Area, rural veterans served through the VA Medical Clinic in Eureka, California, and deported veterans. While utilizing techniques influenced by the New Mission School of artwork, we expanded our work from primarily creating murals to include painting on canvas and other more traditional methods of art-making.”

Deported veterans represented in this exhibition are associated with the Deported Veterans Mural Project (DVMP) in Tijuana. A Mexico-based organization serving deported veterans from countries all over the world, DVMP was co-founded by Gregory in collaboration with formerly deported veterans Fabian Rebolledo and Hector Barajas. While Rebolledo and Barajas eventually returned home, other veterans remain abroad. Alex Murillo, an artist whose works will be included in the exhibition, came to the United States as a child, served in the U.S. military, and was deported after his service for a cannabis offense. According to Murillo, “It is no great secret that U.S. veterans get into trouble after our military service. They do their time, pay their debt to society, and then they get to go home to their families. Why not us? The judge thanked me for my service to my country, and then ordered me deported.”

Artworks created by deported veterans for Veterans’ Voices: Painted Realities were shipped from all over the world, including Jamaica and Kenya. Themes explored include trauma, citizenship, race, parenthood, homelessness, isolation, and healing. Exhibition Co-curator Antonia Dapena-Tretter notes, “These artworks are powerful, personal, and as diverse as the veterans who made them. By sharing their art with the public in this group show, these talented artists are contributing to a greater awareness of the realities of conflict and the lifelong process of healing post-service.”

The museum provided art-making materials, additional studio space, shipping expenses, and ongoing curatorial support from exhibition Co-curator Marina Villar Delgado to make the outreach project possible.

“We are honored to feature the important and powerful work of Veterans’ Alley, and we are extremely grateful to the Sharon D. Lund Foundation for their generous grant that made an exhibition at this scale possible” says Kirsten Komoroske, Executive Director of The Walt Disney Family Museum. “Along with our next major special exhibition, The Walt Disney Studios and World War II, our goal is to expose museum visitors—both in person and in the virtual space—to the creativity and individual experiences of both our local veteran community and the community that remains abroad.”

Veterans’ Voices is the museum’s fifth annual Community Access Exhibition, inspired by the vision of the museum's co-founder, Diane Disney Miller, who championed arts access as a vital component of the museum's commitment to community engagement.

To accommodate individuals who are unable to visit the exhibition in-person, the museum will also be making Veterans’ Voices: Painted Realities available to view online in a virtual gallery beginning on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31 at 11am PT.

Special thanks to the Sharon D. Lund Foundation for their generous support of this exhibition.

About Veterans Alley

The San Francisco Veterans Mural Project (Veterans Alley) is a community based mural project located in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. The project consists of murals, covering over 30,000 square feet of public facing walls in an alley, where veterans paint their own stories about the true reality of war and the military experience. It was founded in October 2011, by Amos Gregory, United States Navy Veteran, and co-founder Gilbert Lovato, a USMC veteran. 

The murals of Veterans Alley are all done by U.S. military veterans, their supporters and the community-at-large. The significance of this project is that veterans' stories are usually told by individual artists who themselves are not veterans.  Veterans Alley represents the first instance where veterans, through public artwork, have created a constant dialogue with the community by highlighting the reality of war and the military experience. The object of the project is to create awareness, understanding and transformation in our community centered around the universal concept of peace and humanity. Any veteran worldwide can propose, and create a mural telling their own stories. We supply all paints, brushes, sketch pads, and guidance as we continue to welcome more veterans to Veterans Alley.