Revolutionary grand opening

Published 7:08 pm Friday, September 8, 2017

General Nathanael Greene mingled with guests among paintings of his contemporaries on Thursday evening at the unveiling of the Revolutionary War Art Project at the LaGrange Art Museum.

The reenactor playing Greene was an ardent advocate on the importance of the American troops that fought in the Revolutionary War, but perhaps one of the most influential figures featured in the exhibit was the Marquis de Lafayette whose statue stands on the square. Lafayette, whose birthday was earlier this week, was a central figure in the war for independence.

“(Lafayette) fought with us and for us, and he spent money on our behalf to the point of pandering, but he had faith in America,” Dr. Richard Ingram said. “One of the things that Lafayette said was that we here in America are a reservoir of liberty and freedom and peace, and the words start to lift you off the ground. So, I think of Lafayette as a prism through which our concept of liberty gets context, and I think that can also flavor how we think of current events and how we see them.”

Ingram began a project to inform the public on why Lafayette matters after realizing how few locals realize the significance of the iconic statue on LaGrange’s square, but the project has also come to highlight the importance of other important figures of the revolution.

“These are the men and women who fought or aided the movement for American Independence,” Dr. John Tures of LaGrange College said. “History books written long ago tended to overlook the contributions of some men, young and old, male and female, black and white and even Hispanic. When you read their stories, you wonder why these history textbooks and Hollywood have ignored their compelling contributions to our freedom.”

A large part of the reason behind the project is the argument that the effects of that fight for freedom can be felt even now, more than 200 years later.

“I’ve always been interested in the Revolutionary War because I see it as the animating event for our original philosophy which is, all men are created equal,” Ingram said. “If you think of it, our view of liberty today, our day to day affairs, they are all couched in that ideal of liberty, and that is where it started. We can argue that was an era that sequestered women and African Americans and Native Americans. It is true, but the conversation really started in earnest then.”

The artists from the Visual Artists Alliance of LaGrange partnered with Ingram on the project in order, and in the process, the artists were given the opportunity to help educate the public while learning more about the figures highlighted in the show at the same time.

“Anytime an artist can pair with education is awesome,” VAAL President Thea McElvy said. “Artists generally see their gift as a gift, and to be able to give that back to the community is awesome. It is just a nice thing to be able to do. We’ve really enjoyed it.”

The works will likely be shown at a variety of locations and other resources will be paired with the works to cement the new information into student’s minds.

“They are going to take the images and turn them into coloring pages, so that it reinforces the heroes’ stories to children as they color,” McElvy said.

The Revolutionary War Art Project and the attached VAAL exhibit will be on display at the LaGrange Art Museum until October 30.