It’s Presidents Day and a Monday so the Museum of the Southwest is closed — but you can celebrate a day or two late and have a chance to see the artwork of a former president who once called West Texas home.
Growing out of President George W. Bush’s own outreach and the ongoing work of the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors” brings together 66 full-color portraits and a four-panel mural painted by President Bush of members of the United States military who have served the nation with honor since 9/11 — and whom he has come to know personally.
Docents and staff at the museum are quick to offer interesting information about the paintings and the former president. Don’t be shy about asking questions about the exhibit. A video near the front of the exhibit offers some thoughts from Bush and others about the show.
The traveling exhibit’s permanent home is the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas. The show opened in January at the Museum of the Southwest in Midland — a fitting spot as Bush has lived in both Midland and Odessa.
Bush officials said the opportunity to show the portraits around the country is valuable.
“While the exhibit was open at the Bush Center, thousands of people had the opportunity to come through and learn firsthand about the stories of the men and women who serve our nation. We’re excited that more and more people will have that opportunity as this artwork travels the country, helping raise awareness of the issues facing our warriors as they transition to civilian life,” The Bush Institute’s Col. Matthew Amidon said via email.
In an interview last year with VOA (www.voanews.com), the former president himself spoke about veterans who were the inspiration behind the effort to paint their portraits for an exhibit and book, titled “Portraits of Courage: A Commander-in-Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors.”
He told Voice of America that he hopes the art speaks for itself, but Portraits of Courage is also a fundraiser for veterans.
All proceeds from the sale of the Portraits of Courage book, including a more expensive, limited edition signed by the former president, will help fund programs of the George W. Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, which aims to help military members transition to civilian life, help veterans find employment if needed, and address ways to treat both the visible and invisible injuries of war.
Museum officials, in a press release, stated “our men and women in uniform have faced down enemies, liberated millions, and in doing so showed the true compassion of our nation. Often, they return home with injuries — both visible and invisible — that intensify the challenges of transitioning into civilian life.”
This exhibition is sponsored by Robert E. and Donna Landreth Family Fund at Permian Basin Area Foundation, Roni and Wes Perry/PBEX Resources, LLC, the Rea Charitable Trust, OGX Resources and Lois and Richard Folger.