By Beth Cox
Johnson County Art Center director, Cristy Dunn has once again joined forces with local photographer Tia Thomas to work on another “journeys” showcase wall. The two partnered together for last year’s “senior picture day.”
This year’s wall is about local veterans, consisting of portraits and interviews. of the veterans.
“Everybody has a story, and everybody’s story needs to be told,” Thomas said, “I don’t think people realize how many veterans are in Johnson County, so we saw an opportunity to honor them and their legacy.”
Dunn and Thomas emphasized that it was imperative to feature WWII veterans because they are the oldest population, and it is important for people to hear their stories.
Both ladies expressed how honored they were to have the veterans share their stories.
“We knew it was important to hear the wisdom they shared, and to be able to archive these stories, so people will know there is so much more than what is taught in a history class.”
Thomas is responsible for the eighteen veterans’ portraits, which will be framed and hung on the wall, along with a video that highlights the veterans’ interviews. The interviews in their entirety can be seen on the Johnson County Art Center’s website.
Vietnam veteran Harold Mastranunzio sponsored the portraits, while Ken Wiley interviewed the veterans.
Wiley has significant experience in the area of interviewing as he has been collecting stories about
veterans for over twenty years. His work can be found at the Johnson County Library.
Kelley St. Germain from Germain Media and Appalachian Memory Keepers was responsible for filming and editing. St. Germain was so moved by the veterans’ stories; he did not charge for editing the videos.
Dunn shared a portion of what will be on display throughout July with opening day on the fourth. Ten veterans were interviewed for this unique project.
It is noteworthy that a couple of interviews have Dr. Rollin Vickers talking about the Battle of the Bulge and another has Bobbie Smith, who was the inspiration for the veteran wall, discussing the obstacles she overcame to achieve one of the highest ranks in the military.
Dunn and Thomas are grateful to all who sponsored this special event, former Sheriff Mike Reece, Iron Mountain Inn and funding by the Tennessee Arts Commission. Thomas explains how emotional the project was, “we were just amazed by their sacrifice and their humility.” The veterans’ wall will be open to the public
after the Fourth of July parade.
Below is a sample of Tia Thomas’ work, which will be featured in July at the Johnson County Center for the Arts.