Veterans Art Gallery

Creative Expression Shaped by Military Service

We are pleased to be able to offer regular exhibitions of Veterans Art in the C. Kenneth Wright Pavilion. This space is a natural extension of our efforts to provide veterans a safe place, free from judgment and convention, to tell their stories in their own words and images.

Our newest exhibition, My Art Is My Portrait, is currently on exhibit through Spring 2023. The show features a lifetime’s worth of art by native Virginian and Vietnam War Veteran Charlie McConnell.

Patty Kruszewski of the Henrico Citizen covered the Art Exhibition opening on November 3, 2022. Read her article HERE.

“Me and My Old Guitar”

A native of Coeburn in Wise County, Charlie McConnell grew up with a passion and talent for drawing and painting. Encouraged by his aunt, who was also an artist, McConnell pursued the arts as a hobby, although he did not consider it as a possible career path.

McConnell was drafted immediately after graduation from East Tennessee State University. His superior officers, once they became aware of his degree and his talent, both in basic training and in officer candidate school, put him to work creating military paintings.

“I was told to paint a combat scene of Vietnam,” notes McConnell. “This happened both during basic training and in Officers’ Candidate School. Although, once in Vietnam there was obviously little time for art.”

After his service ended, McConnell struggled to find his way. He initially tried to pursue a master’s degree in fine arts, but that path became financially impractical.

McConnell eventually found his way to work for the Wise County Redevelopment and Housing Authority, where he was able to marry his artistic talents with support for the community in which he was raised. It was in this field that he was able to marry his artistic talents with supporting his community.

McConnell’s art is not only his portrait, but also a portrait of Virginia, and a portrait of moments in time preserved for Memorial visitors today.

A rendering of the Vietnam War

“You will see common themes in my work – my love of family and friends, my family’s deep roots in the life, culture, and landscae of Southwest Virginia, and my work serving my fellow Virginians.”

– Charlie McConnell

“Low Coal”