UB, together with a team of community partners, will present selected images from “Odyssey: Warriors Come Home,” an exhibition of photographs by local veterans who used photography to explore their return to civilian life and to find significant social ties after the war.
The powerful images from 42 photographers in the exhibit give visitors the opportunity to see and experience the challenges veterans face as they return from combat and begin the process of reintegration into society. The exhibition, curated by Odyssey Project founder Brendan Bannon, tells the collective story of the return from battle.
“Odyssey” will be displayed from March 15 through May 31 outdoors on the surrounding grounds and in the interior ground floor space of the Central Library at 1 Lafayette Square in downtown Buffalo. The exhibit represents another phase of UB’s project “Developing a Meaningful Sense of Belonging in Veterans.”
“These photographs are a deeply personal testimony to the impact of war on the people who fought it,” says Bannon. “War stories and the challenges of coming home are hard to share and even harder to understand for people who have not lived through the war.
“These images illuminate these stories of complex courage.”
Over the past few months, a UB research team has been working on the project with the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Odyssey Project, and Veterans One-stop Center of Western New York. During this time, local veterans held a series of meetings to facilitate rich discussion and reflection on how they can find and develop a meaningful sense of belonging upon release. Six discussion leaders, all veterans themselves, led this first round of monthly discussions with members of the broader veteran community in Western New York on reintegration, disability, mental health, loss and suffering, reconciliation and public memory.
These discussion leaders will also open their conversation to the public in a free special event at 1 p.m. on April 3 at the Central Library. This special event brings veterans and their families together with a wider audience to discuss meaningful belonging and the importance of having a common, shared experience that creates a sense of belonging and approval by society in its together. It is a basic human need that enables people to positively manage stress and discover coping strategies, while contributing to their overall social and emotional well-being.
The project’s second round of monthly discussions are scheduled to begin in May. Veterans interested in participating can contact the project team.
“Developing a Meaningful Sense of Belonging in Veterans” is funded by a $100,000 grant UB received last year through the National Endowment’s “War Experience Dialogues” program. for the Humanities, which supports the humanities as a means for the U.S. military. veterans and others to think more deeply about the issues raised by war and military service. By combining photographic creativity, literature, art and discussion sessions, the project helps veterans find a new sense of social connection and meaningful belonging after their military service.
At a fundamental level, the project creates a place to share stories in a variety of mediums that demonstrate the ability of storytelling to help people find meaning and answers to questions whose answers are not easily found. , according to Vasiliki Neofotistos, associate professor of anthropology, College of Arts and Sciences, and principal investigator of the grant.
“As an anthropologist, I am a storyteller. I tell stories of other people and stories about other people’s stories in hopes of helping make sense of the chaos we call life,” says Neofotistos. “This project is very dear to me because it helps veterans to tell and re-tell their own stories by gaining new insight into their military experiences, and to create connections through collective reflection around novels, memoirs , film, and art that provide shared models of deployment and return home, while creating a forum for veterans to form support networks, combat social isolation, and build resilience.
Neofotistos worked on the project with co-researchers and UB colleagues Lisa Butler, an associate professor in the School of Social Work and an expert in the care needs of veterans and their families, and Bonnie Vest, a medical anthropologist and Associate Research Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, who has expertise in the health and well-being of veteran and military populations. Butler and Vest also co-direct Joining Forces-UB, a project dedicated to veteran-related education and research at UB.
Additional support for the Odyssey Project comes from Higher Ground, the National Endowment for the Arts, Canon and Canon Professional Services, the John R. Oishei Foundation, M&T Bank and the Buffalo Sabers Foundation. Refreshments during the two rounds of monthly talks are provided by UB’s Institute of Humanities.