Marion VA to Showcase Veterans’ Artwork at Surplus Gallery

By Rana Schenke, Staff Reporter

The Marion VA Medical Center will be hosting the Weapons of Mass Creation Art Show at the Surplus Gallery in Carbondale, Sept. 10 through 14.

The gallery opens at noon and closes at 8 p.m. Admission is free to the public.

The Weapons of Mass Creation show will showcase work from veterans and family members of veterans.


“That includes grandfathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, not just the [immediate] family,” Samuel Hoekstra, a peer support specialist at the VA and a veteran himself, said.

Hoekstra said he founded the Weapons of Mass Creation Art Show in 2014. He’s also a three-time combat tour veteran.

“[I] did two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan,” Hoekstra said. “I received my bachelor’s degree in industrial design from the school of art and design at SIU.”

Hoekstra said the first year was a little rocky, but the second show had more submissions.

“By the second show we had submissions from the West Coast all the way to the East Coast,” Hoekstra said.

Hoekstra said the last show had about 127 veterans and family members participating.

“[The show] was really starting to get attention from a lot of people that wanted to come and see or share what they had to offer from their perspective,” Hoekstra said. “We ended up getting a lot more family members to join in as well.”


Hoekstra said some of them did art that was in honor of their family members that were in the military.

“Others submitted art that was done by their veteran, but their veteran had passed away,” Hoekstra said.

The reason Hoekstra said he created the show because he saw quite a few veterans that had artistic ability, and used their talents to cope with everyday life or cope with things they did in the military.

“It showed me that there was more to a veteran than just a uniform,” Hoekstra said.

The submitted pieces are in a variety of mediums.

“Last show we had paintings, photography, we even had blacksmithing, some origami, we had digital art that we were able to display on a projector,” Hoekstra said.

The show is part of an effort by the VA to reach veterans on every level and engage with the community.

“The VA has really wanted to create a community partnership with a lot of people, so we were able to partner with SIU’s School of Art and Design to do this at the Surplus Gallery,” Hoekstra said.

This is the third time the VA has put on this show. This is currently the only event the Marion VA puts on that involves art, according to Hoekstra.

The veterans who participate in the show create art for a variety of reasons.

“Some people are just born with a natural talent and ability to create beautiful masterpieces, and others just kind of develop it over time,” Hoekstra said. “Some do it because it’s their only means of getting out what their emotional feelings are.”

They’re not alone, famous artists who were also veterans include: Phil Stern, Sam Francis, and Sol Lewitt, according to the United States Veterans’ Artists Alliance.

Other creative veterans include singer Elvis Presley, cartoonist Charles Schulz, and author Tim O’Brien.

Art has been shown to have many benefits for veterans. According to a study done by charity organization Combat Stress, based out of the UK, 87 percent of veterans who participated in a 6-week treatment program that included art therapy reported a reduction in PTSD symptoms.

Another study from Concordia University showed art therapy helped veterans externalize their emotions and gain insight into the issues they struggled with.

“I see that this [show] has been a good thing for a lot of veterans that enjoy doing art,” Hoekstra said.

On the last day of the show, Sept. 14, there will be a closing reception that is also free to the public.

The reception starts at 5 p.m. and ends at 8 p.m.

“The big thing that I’ve heard [about this show] is it has been so wonderful that there’s an event for veterans to display their art in a professional setting,” Hoekstra said.

Staff reporter Rana Schenke can be reached at

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