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'Expressions of Courage': Huge Public Art Project Pays Tribute to the Sacrifice of Military Families

"Expressions of Courage" art exhibit
"Expressions of Courage" art exhibit

It looks like a super-sized class photo, spread out on the front of a massive Virginia Beach furniture store. 

In this case, the home room includes veterans, active duty personnel and their families across the Hampton Roads area.

"I've never produced a public work this large," artist Bobby Levin told CBN News.

He calls his project, "Expressions of Courage".

"I saw this as a perfect vehicle to marry things that I'm passionate about – a respect for the military, the veterans and the families and my passion for public art," Levin explained. "And that I believe it enriches our lives and makes for just a better community."

Workers spent nine to ten hours installing the exhibit. Levin hopes those who view it reflect on the sacrifice of military families.

"There is a shared level of emotion and feelings that every military family goes through, and this just hopefully will raise the level of awareness of that sacrifice that those people are really making because it's real, and it's significant, and it needs to be acknowledged and recognized," he said.

"And hopefully, this is the type of tribute that does it," Levin added.

"Every time I look at it, I happen to see somebody else that I recognize," Laura Baxter, the executive director of the Armed Services YMCA of Hampton Roads, told CBN News.

She helped arrange time for Levin to take photos of members of the "Y". 

"He had them make a funny face or smile; it's not that staunch 'I'm in the military; I have to be strong'," explained Baxter. "Courage comes in many forms, and when you're talking about the courage that a military family has to entail, they have to have that courage on the front line, but then also, the family has to, too."

"I feel like I'm famous now," shared 11-year-old Nevaeh Barnes. She and her mom, Ashley James, are featured among the 167 photos. "Courage makes you stronger, and it makes you step through your fears."

"We may not leave, but we're at home supporting them every step of the way, so it's very... I was just grateful for the recognition; we feel seen today, so it's really awesome," James said.

Nevaeh's dad, Markist James, hopes the exhibit sends an important message.

"Just the fact that there's more to the military than the service members," he said. "There's a network of people working together to get a job done."

"Just for the simple fact of me deploying, she has to take care of the household; she has to take care of our daughter," he continued. "For when I can't help support her, she has to support us."   

Altogether, the massive art project is 290 feet wide and 22 feet high. It's part of a global art endeavor known as the "Inside Out Project". 

A French street artist known as JR started the Inside Out Project. Through photos on huge canvases, he wants participants worldwide to stand up for what they care about to "turn the world inside out."

"I want to give back to my community; I was born and raised here; I was raised less than a mile from the main gate of the Naval base in Norfolk," shared Levin. "My father was part of the greatest generation and served as a lieutenant commander in the South Pacific during World War II."

Levin is giving back to his community by acknowledging in a very public way the service of those on the front lines and here at home.

WANT TO BLESS A MILITARY FAMILY? Check out CBN's Helping the Home Front

CBN's Helping the Homefront initiative helps active-duty military families. We are coming alongside local churches by providing financial assistance to help congregations meet the needs of their military families. We aid churches in helping these families:

  • Repair their homes and cars
  • Replace broken appliances
  • Purchase new mattresses
  • Help with overdue mortgages
  • Pay off medical bills
  • 800-700-7000

Do you or a family member serve in the United States Armed Forces? Do you have questions about the unique challenges faced by the military and their families? Would you like special devotions geared to military life?

Need prayer? We’re available 24/7. Call (800) 700-7000 or request prayer.

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