The war in Iraq has touched everyone in some shape or form. Since the beginning of the war in 2003, thousands upon thousands of Americans have lost their lives in the war.
Art Lecturer Andre Ferrella has created the exhibit, “Rise of the Fallen” which features “spirit boxes” of his own design to remember and honor more than 100 Wisconsin service men and women who have died.
Ferrella got the idea for the “spirit boxes” after he saw all the caskets coming back to America. He began thinking of a way he could help comfort and provide relief for the families of the soldiers.
“I created these things called ‘spirit boxes’ several years before, but I only made them of people who were living,” Ferrella said. “For instance I made one of myself and it always reminds me of who I truly am – our essence, our spirit. A ‘spirit box,’ for me, captures who we truly are no matter what is happening in the world around us.”
Ferrella gets the images from the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Washington Post. He then creates the life-size “spirit box.”
He traveled to different Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations and asked if this was something they wanted to see. Since then he has been creating “spirit boxes” for all Wisconsin soldiers who have died.
The exhibit has been commissioned by the Wisconsin Veteran’s Museum in Madison, but travels around the state.
It was most recently at the Milwaukee County War Memorial and after its two-week stay in Whitewater, the exhibit will go up north and then around the state. Ferrella said he hopes it will travel regionally and then nationally sometime in the future.
“Our goal is to make a national installation,” Ferrella said. “But that is a huge project. We have a lot of interest but people cannot find the funding.”
Another way Ferrella’s exhibiting is helping those in need is that all of the spirit boxes are made by the disabled individuals.
“I found a company up in Michigan who hires individuals that are severely challenged,” Ferrella said. “I went up there and trained them how to make them; then the money goes to supporting that organization.”
Through feedback, Ferrella said he has found that people respond to “spirit boxes” in a completely different way than they do when they see a name.
“It’s like ‘God, our spirit and our soul live on. This is not an end all to end all; we live on,’” Ferrella said.
Chair of the Veteran’s Committee Elizabeth Watson said this exhibit is just one of many ways to acknowledge veterans and service members.
“I saw the exhibit in full last year at the State of Wisconsin Veterans Museum in Madison,” Watson said. “It is very humbling and powerful. You have to decide if the faces are present or fading.”
Ferrella said this exhibit is something that everyone needs to see because these men and women are willing to sacrifice their lives for what they believe in, therefore we need to honor and respect them for what they have done.
Even though the spirit boxes are relatively simple, Ferrella said they are hard to make. He urges anyone interested in volunteering to contact him.
Anyone interested in donating to the exhibit can go to theriseofthefallen.org and click on the “contribute” link.
“I would hope there is someone out there who would step up and want this project to be completed; that’s my goal,” Ferrella said. “Can you imagine walking into the Milwaukee Art Museum and seeing 6,000 of these?”
“Rise of the Fallen” will be in the Fiskum Art Gallery Nov. 3 to Nov. 14. There will be a reception from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Nov. 11.