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Purple Heart veteran captures 'nature and God's creation' at VOICES ArtPrize at Veterans Memorial Park

The exhibit highlights the art, stories and struggles of military veterans in the nation.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — This is the second year the VOICES project by ArtPrize returns to Veteran Memorial Park in downtown Grand Rapids.

The exhibit highlights the art, stories and struggles of military veterans in the nation.

You'll find veteran John Katerberg's installation in the pond at Veterans Memorial Park.

"It's interactive so the brass, polished brass and aluminum will look like it's moving and when there's waves in the pond it gives that effect," he said.

He's been a professional artist for 30 years now.

"My objective is to try to capture that sense of awe when you see nature and God's creation and that bright brilliant sunlight coming at you."

Katerberg was deployed to Desert Storm and Afghanistan where he was hurt and thus, earned a Purple Heart.

The scenery in his art showcases the sense of calm and peace he was craving while overseas.

"I think that's a lot of what my work is," said Katerberg. "I remember these places. When I was deployed in dangerous, dusty, nasty places. I remembered Pictured Rock and it's just an amazing place." 

The VOICES project features 22 veteran artists this year.

The number symbolizes the tragic number of veterans who commit suicide daily. 

"Helping the veterans to feel seen and to feel heard and understood," said Pamela Alderman, VOICES Art Curator and ArtPrize artist. "Hopefully that creates this positive environment where it would just lessen that idea of isolation which leads to depression and that idea of suicidal thoughts." 

"Just to acknowledge them and to listen to their stories. Their voices. So it's very important to come down and recognize him and hear their story," said Katerberg.

In addition to various art installations, guests will see a bunch of yellow ribbons tied around the trees at the park.

These ribbons are for visitors to write on and then tie to the trees.

So far they've collected 5,500 yellow ribbons and Blue Star Moms, mothers of veterans, will deliver them to deployed soldiers in care packages.

They sent out 10,000 ribbons last year so they're hoping to hit that amount again this year.

VOICES is a partnership between Kent County Veteran Services, “[Has Heart]”   and the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency.

The exhibit runs from today until October 2.

There's an opening ceremony this Saturday, September 17 at 10:30 AM where there will kids crafts, food, a military fly over and the American Legion circling the park.

To see Katerberg's art for purchase, as well as works from other artists, visit allartworks.net. 

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