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Painting For Peace

Memorial Day was celebrated early this year in Locust Valley, the weekend of May 3 to 5, with a student art exhibit that has roots in history, entitled “Painting for Peace.”

The exhibit was the idea of Kaye Weninger, president of Operation Democracy, as a way to get local students involved with veterans, as well as a way of reminding them that Memorial Day is an important holiday to remember.

Inspired by Operation Democracy’s first art show and fundraiser in Locust Valley in 1948, Weninger thought, “This is the perfect answer to hopes of making a difference — one color at a time — painting a way to peace.”  The recently revived Operation Democracy honors the memory of the citizens who created the charity, and it wants to continue their mission: to spread the concepts of freedom, democracy and peace through goodwill. The vehicle to do that has been “Painting for Peace.”

The students of Locust Valley High School have been a part of the project for the past three years. With the encouragement of Tom Camillieri and the other LV art teachers, the students have been eager to show their artistic abilities through their interpretation of what peace means to them, while honoring those whose service should never be forgotten.

The Gallery in The Plaza in Locust Valley hosted the student art exhibit with 114 pieces of art that filled six rooms in the gallery. Veterans from the Howard Van Wagner American Legion Post 962 of Locust Valley and their Ladies Auxiliary hosted the opening reception, encouraging the students and providing refreshments for the show. Also attending were veterans from Glen Cove, including artist Derek Mei, as well as many students, parents and proud grandparents.  

Second Show

After the closing of the exhibit, 43 pieces were sent to Sainte Mere Eglise in Normandy, France, for the second annual International Student Art Exhibit that will be held there on June 6. Art teacher Camillieri said the students loved the opportunity to show their art in a gallery here in Locust Valley and were excited about the show in France, in their sister City of Sainte Mere Eglise, during D-Day events.

Weninger said she moved up the date of the exhibit so she could ship the chosen art to France. “Last year I had so many pieces of luggage on the flight that this year I decided to ship them ahead first.

“I was so pleased with what they did for the second annual art exhibit in France.”

She said, “There were portraits of them as children of peace. The artwork was really unbelievable. A few pieces were very touching. One student did a colored-pencil drawing of the little boy killed at the Boston Marathon and it was beautiful. We placed it on a single wall as a memorial.”

Senior Julia Ryan sketched Boston Marathon victim Martin Richard, holding his sign about peace.

Today’s Wars

Weninger said, “I was taken aback, realizing that these kids have lived through war too: since 9/11, the Boston Marathon, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. This is a way for them to express their feelings about peace. It’s a good way to educate our future generations.”

On Memorial Day, after the parade on May 27, in Locust Valley, veterans’ families went back to the legion hall for lunch. Weninger had reserved a group of 15 photographs that she exhibited there. “I decorated the legion hall with kids’ art,” she said.

Weninger summed up May 27, Memorial Day, as a day of remembrance for those who died serving our country. “As we honor our veterans each year on this day, Locust Valley’s Operation Democracy has found a way to not only honor the fallen warriors but to educate our future generations, our children, about the price of freedom and to ‘Never Forget’ and to remember our active-duty soldiers as a way to say ‘Thank you.’”

For more information, please call Kaye Weninger at McLoughlin & Co. at 13 Forest Avenue, at 516-676-5604.