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Students thank troops through art

Officials from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, along with representatives of a number of area groups, recently gathered together with more than two dozen students to unveil an art exhibit focused on members of the military.

The Atlanta airport, the Rotary Club of Atlanta, Metro Atlanta Million Mom March, U.S. Army Forces Command and the Charles R. Drew Charter School, joined with 25 students of the charter school, to unveil the Atlanta Military Gateway Youth Art Program exhibit on Dec. 7.

The exhibit is located near the military check-in counters at the North Terminal of the airport.

According to DeAllous Smith, media relations officer at Hartsfield-Jackson, the area of the display is near baggage carousel eight, where troops check in for outgoing flights.

"There is nothing more meaningful for a service member than the demonstration of gratitude, and support, from his, or her, fellow countrymen," said Brig. Gen. Rick Porter of the U.S. Army Forces Command, at Fort McPherson.

"They may be deploying into harm's way for the first time, redeploying permanently to join their families, or on mid-tour leave," said Porter. "Thanks to programs like the student art project, they will know their service and sacrifice are recognized and greatly appreciated."

Katena Carvajales, media relations manager for Hartsfield-Jackson, said there are approximately 16,500 troops, and U.S. Department of Defense civilians, traveling through the airport each month, who will be able to view the exhibit.

The Airport Art Program partnered with the Rotary Club of Atlanta, to bring the exhibit to the airport. It consists of 10 framed art pieces from more than 40 fourth-grade students from the charter school, according to Smith. The exhibit's artwork will rotate every four months, and new art pieces from students of a different metro Atlanta school will be on display.

Kelli Newman, spokesperson for the East Lake Foundation, added that the artwork will be replaced students of Morris Brandon Elementary School in Atlanta, in spring 2011.

Newman explained that Drew Charter School is located in the East Lake community of Atlanta, and is the first to be selected for this rotating exhibit.

"The foundation shares in our East Lake community's excitement that Drew Charter School will lead the list of participating schools that will share in the delight, pride, and honor involved with this very worthwhile effort to salute the men and women serving our nation," said Madelyn Adams, executive director of the East Lake Foundation, and a board member of Drew Charter School.

Chase Porter, 9, a student of the charter school, said he is excited that his talents contributed to the exhibit.

"I feel great," he said. "Having the Army ... see my art."

Josiah McCord, 10, said he drew an individual piece: the Statue of Liberty. "They inspired me," said McCord shyly, about the troops.

Airport spokesman Smith said the Rotary Club of Atlanta added a large U.S. flag that is permanently hung next to the artwork.

Clark Dean, chairman of the Troop Support Committee of the Rotary Club of Atlanta, said the club was happy to assist with the exhibit, because it relays a special message to troops passing through Hartsfield-Jackson.

"Many of Atlanta's top business leaders want to show support for our troops, but often aren't sure how," said Dean, in a prepared statement. "Through Rotary [Club of Atlanta], this program has allowed them to do exactly that — and in the best way possible, through honor, respect, and gratitude."

Valerie Hartman Levy, president of the Metro Atlanta Million Mom March, said the idea for the exhibit was conceived a year ago. She was at the airport and realized how plain, and cold, the walls were near the baggage claim area where some troops retrieved their bags to board a connection flight overseas. Levy said she relayed the thought to Dean.

"I'm so pleased to see the idea come to fruition, and it's all thanks to the generosity of those involved in this project," said Levy. "I hope each soldier who passes through the military gateway is impacted in the most positive way — through the knowledge that the support and appreciation of Atlanta is with them wherever they go."

David Vogt, manager of the Airport Art Program at Hartsfield-Jackson, agreed with Levy, in that the area didn't display anything patriotic that the soldiers could identify with.

"Now, with the large flag, new signage and youth art exhibit, it is much easier for soldiers to locate the processing site," said Vogt.

"The site is where all the soldiers are processed so it is the best location for them to view the artwork," he added.

Vogt said the Airport Art Program welcomed the idea for the exhibit when it was first presented.

"Hartsfield-Jackson is very proud of its youth art program," added Louis Miller, aviation general manager at Hartsfield-Jackson. "The Atlanta Military Gateway Youth Art Program not only gives students a global platform to showcase their work — which is truly spectacular — but also expresses our appreciation to all active and retired military personnel who pass through the world's busiest airport."

Vogt continued that the Airport Art Program coordinated many details for the exhibit, such as its layout, the type of frames, the design and procurement of its signage and installation of the art frames.

The airport art department manager added that the department will also be responsible for coordinating the rotating exhibits of youth artwork.

Vogt said the cost of the frames and flags were "generously" covered the Rotary Club of Atlanta.

"We thought it was a great idea to brighten up the soldier processing area with youth artwork," said Vogt. "Children's artwork is positive, and upbeat, which is perfect for greeting returning, and departing, servicemen and women."