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A lesson through art

Published (4/22/2010)
By Patty Ostberg
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Little Falls artist Charles Kapsner shows the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee April 15 his sketches for a mural depicting the history of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard to be created at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls. (Photo by Andrew VonBank)When veterans are laid to rest at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery in Little Falls their caskets pass through the committal hall

As a tribute and honor, the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery Memorial Association initiated a project that will create five military themed 8 foot by 10 foot oil canvases for display in the hall. Each canvas will depict a military branch’s history on a mural: Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. Merchant Marines will also be honored for their services during World War II.

Charles Gilbert Kapsner, the designer and painter for the Veterans Educational Historic Project, presented the proposed murals to the House Agriculture, Rural Economies and Veterans Affairs Committee April 15.

Kapsner said he was approached by former Rep. Gordon Gerling to create a fresco painting for the hall. But a fresco would have required reconstruction of the walls and use of certain building materials to accommodate the environment needed to maintain a fresco. Instead, Kapsner suggested individual murals — and so the project began.

As Kapsner spent time at the cemetery, he began to envision the intertwining of each branch and the history of the United States, he said. Visitors will see the branches having had more influence at certain times and how man’s history and his influence can be a part of what we’re doing today. Each mural will represent the past, present and future and depict one person looking out into the audience.

The goal is to “pay tribute to the men and women of the military who have served throughout our long history, but also to talk about history,” Kapsner said.

Gerling, said the memorial would serve as an “educational tool to help further generations understand our history and the vital role our military has played in the creation and preservation of our democracy.”

He plans to develop graphite drawings to be projected onto a canvas to begin the painting process. Live models pose in replica military uniforms to help him bring life to the canvas, he said.

Those interested can visit to view the graphite drawings as they move through the creative process and watch the scenes develop.

Gerling, art committee chairman for the association, said they are looking to veteran’s organizations, corporations, foundations and individuals to help fund the $485,000 project.

There are two veteran cemeteries in Minnesota, Fort Snelling National Cemetery in Minneapolis and the Little Falls cemetery, which is considered a state veterans cemetery.David Swantek, director of the Little Falls cemetery, said that the Department of Veterans Affairs has considered adding three cemetery locations: near Duluth, Redwood County and Fillmore County.

The federal government helps states fund new cemeteries by providing 100 percent of the construction costs, plus the initial basic equipment for operations. The state is responsible for purchasing the land and the long-term annual operational costs. Swantek said the department has evaluated donated land, but has been unsuccessful in finding sufficient geology for a cemetery. For instance, one parcel of land in southern Minnesota was too close to a water table and irrigation canal, making the soil insufficient for burials.

The National Cemetery Administration uses a 75-mile radius to determine an area with the most need. For example, placing a cemetery in Redwood Falls would serve 14 counties and 22,798 veterans.

Sponsored by Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar), HF2678 would instruct the Department of Veterans Affairs to determine three sites suitable for new veteran’s cemeteries. The cemeteries would be located in southwestern Minnesota, northeastern Minnesota and one at Fort Ridgely State Park near Fairfax. It awaits action by the full House.

A companion, sponsored by Sen. Dan Skogen (DFL-Hewitt), which does not include the cemetery language, was passed 66-0 by the Senate April 19.

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