RISD art history professor Suzanne Scanlan, PhD '10, needed to be creative to ensure students in the Providence Clemente Veterans Initiative would have the chance to examine the city’s memorials and “explore questions of war and duty through art, literature, philosophy, and history" despite the pandemic. Scanlan took the tour herself with a camera in hand and then led the class in a virtual tour of Providence's monuments. The students in this NEH-funded program—veterans of Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and other conflicts—have been meeting since September to explore questions of war and duty through art, literature, philosophy and history.
Twice a week students come together on Zoom to continue the conversation. In addition to the virtual walking tour, they have hosted a visit from Tommy Furlong and Travis Weiner, veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq respectively. Their documentary film-in-progress, Meatgrinder, tells the story of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from a soldier's perspective. Students have also explored the concept of moral injury and discussed the music that reflects their military experience.
The Providence Clemente Veterans Initiative is a free humanities course for RI veterans, regardless of age, gender, or discharge status. Through history, philosophy, art, literature & creative writing, students look at war and homecoming from the ancient Greeks to the present.