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Preparing for Vet's Musuem opening

With under only a week to go before the August 4 opening, the finishing touches are being made to In Their Own Words (ITOW), the new Veterans' Museum. Among these final effects is a mural depicting a prison camp that area artist Tom Rieschick is ...

With under only a week to go before the August 4 opening, the finishing touches are being made to In Their Own Words (ITOW), the new Veterans' Museum. Among these final effects is a mural depicting a prison camp that area artist Tom Rieschick is busy crafting.

"I think it will really start taking form in the next few days," said Rieschick of the mural that is already filled with detail.

Rieschick said that over the next week he will be painting in more details and making a few changes.

The mural will accompany a permanent audio exhibit based on prisoners of war.

According to Rieschick, the mural will serve as a frame for the exhibit, and is intended to enhance the audio stories that will be available on screens. Rieschick hopes the mural will help visitors put themselves in the place of soldiers imprisoned during war, giving them a different perspective as they walk through the exhibit.

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"As excited as the artist is about the mural, the exhibit is the veterans. This is really part of a frame. You want the frame to accent the painting... to accent the real stories, not to detract from them," explained Rieschick

The mural, located in a small alcove, will have wooden crates for visitors to sit on while watching the interview on the monitor. The smallness of the space is designed to create a crowded feeling, akin to what a prisoner of war might feel.

"I wanted to give the human aspect of it. Some of the feelings the POW's were going through," explained Rieschick.

In preparing to begin the mural at ITOW, Rieschick did research on the internet and the library. He had a special interest in wars growing up, especially World War II. While Rieschick never served in a war himself, his father served in Brazil as a disc jockey during WWII and his brother fought in Vietnam.

Museum coordinator, Lina Belar, choose Rieschick to paint the mural after working with him through the New York Mills Cultural Center. The two each had their own visions for the mural, but ultimately, Belar said, the mural will be up to Rieschick. Belar said she wanted a guard tower rising up from the scene, while Rieschkik hoped to incorporate scenes from various wars.

A mountain range serves as the backdrop for the mural, tying the different war scenes together. The mountain range and trees are symbolic of freedom in the mural, not only in the sense of escape, but ultimately why the soldiers are fighting.

"Because the ultimate goal is freedom, whatever war we are in," said Rieschick.

Rieschick said that being asked to paint the mural for the museum has been a great honor and described an interaction with a veteran touring the progress of the museum as a very humbling experience.

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"As proud as I am about this mural, it's nothing- this isn't a life threatening endeavor," said Rieschick. "It was kind of humbling."

And as he puts in the final details, Rieschick can only hope that those who visit ITOW will come away with the same respect for those who have served.

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