Cuba: An Opening Door

December 2, 2015 through January 14, 2016 -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room Exhibit

This exhibit includes 51 photos taken during Sandy Schopbach’s recent trip to Cuba.

Some are landscapes: the harbor and streets of Havana, the bay of Cienfuegos, the church and cobbled streets of Trinidad (the Cuban city, not the country), and the countryside in between. Others are snapshots of daily life: the vendors in the covered market of Cienfuegos, people watching the streets below from their balconies, students in uniform enjoying the end of the school day. Still others are portraits: the young singer in a restaurant, or the proud veteran with his many medals, or the woman-with-cigar posing for photos to earn extra money.

Cuba reminds Sandy of the America of the fifties. It’s a country perched on the precipice of the great changes that will come, now that relations have been re-established. A few young people are already walking around with their ears glued to a cell phone. And until mid-summer the U.S. Embassy in Havana flew no flag and was only a “U.S. Interests Office." Things are changing and perhaps they will change fast.

Still, she hopes that much will remain of the Cuba she saw during this magic visit to an island that has remained a Never-Never-Land for so many years.

Always Lost: A Meditation on War

December 11, 2015 through February 26, 2016 -- Downtown Library: 3rd Floor Exhibit

In 2008, Western Nevada College (WNC) sociology Professor Don Carlson was stopped in his tracks by The New York Times’ Roster of the Dead. “Four thousand faces of American military who had perished in Iraq stared at me,” he said, “and I realized that this war has been perhaps one of the most impersonal wars the U.S. has ever fought.” Carlson and English Professor Marilee Swirczek envisioned a literary and visual arts exhibition to personalize Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom. Kevin Burns, Major, USMC (Ret.) titled the exhibition Always Lost: A Meditation on War from an observation by American writer Gertrude Stein: “War is never fatal but always lost. Always lost.”

The heart of Always Lost is the Wall of the Dead: individual photographs with names of the more than 6,500 U.S. military war casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. The Always Lost project team is committed to keeping the Wall of the Dead current in honor of those who gave their lives and those who made it home.

Included in the exhibition, courtesy of The Dallas Morning News, is the 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of Iraq War combat photographs (Breaking News Photography) by photojournalists David Leeson and Cheryl Diaz Meyer, embedded with Marine units in Iraq in 2003. Accompanying each combat photograph is original literary work by WNC creative writers, veterans and their family members, and others from the Nevada writing community. Observations about the nature of war, from ancient philosophers to modern-day generals, offer thought-provoking meditations about the effects of war on each of us and our obligations to those who serve in harm’s way on our behalf. Interviews of WNC student veterans, representing service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, remind us of the hidden wounds of war. Army SPC Noah C. Pierce, who took his life after two combat tours in Iraq, represents the tragedy of military suicides through his personal story and original poetry.

The exhibition has evolved into a powerful meditation on the effect of war on each of us. It has become a sacred space in which to contemplate the personal costs and collective sacrifice of these particular conflicts, and consequently, of all wars. Always Lost: A Meditation on War is dedicated to those who gave their lives and those who made it home.

Always Lost is made possible through the generosity of The National Endowment of the Arts, The Dallas Morning News, Pfizer VIP: Veterans In Pfizer, Western Nevada College, Art Works and many more.

Image Credit: Photo (left): Courtesy of The Dallas Morning News/David Leeson