UChicago hosts art exhibit honoring Illinois military members killed in combat

Through Memorial Day, the University of Chicago will host an art exhibit that honors military service members from Illinois killed in combat since 2001. Featuring more than 200 hand-sketched portraits, Portrait of a Soldier will be on display in the McCormick Tribune Lounge in the Reynolds Club through May 29.

During an opening reception on May 24, UChicago Associate Vice President David Chearo urged the audience gathered to use Memorial Day as “a time to reflect upon those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.” A Marine veteran, Chearo appreciated that events like this on campus acknowledge that “your experiences and your brothers and sisters that have been lost are appreciated.”  

Bridget Collier, associate provost and director of the Equal Opportunity Programs at UChicago, welcomed community members to the opening of the exhibit, which she said was created “to put faces to the names of the fallen.”

The reception included several speakers, including Ivan Samstein, vice president and chief financial officer at UChicago and an Army veteran; first-year student and ROTC member Nathan Kim; and former Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois. 

The portraits were created by artist Cameron Schilling of Mattoon, Illinois, who drew the first in 2004 of a Mattoon Army veteran who died in Iraq. Then-Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn saw the sketches and established the memorial exhibit in 2004, bringing it across Illinois.

“Memorial Day is a day to never forget all of those who gave their last full measure of devotion to our democracy,” said Quinn, alluding to President Abraham Lincoln’s sentiment delivered in “The Gettysburg Address.” Quinn encouraged visitors to take the opportunity to explore the portraits and see each of the men and women depicted, “to look into the eyes of the service members” and “see their soul.” 

The exhibit was brought to UChicago with the support of the Maroon Veterans Alliance. Kim, who is also vice president of the organization, closed the event with a reading of the famed John McCrae poem, “In Flanders Fields,” an ode to veterans of World War I.

Kim told the crowd that the exhibit was a powerful reminder that “regardless of our race, our backgrounds, our sexual orientation, we’re all Americans.”