MARSHALLTOWN No one knows better than Drew Cameron about the power of art to create a movement. His Combat Paper Project, is in Marshalltown through Nov. 9 courtesy of the Marshalltown Community Art Department, has been moving and uniting people across the country since 2007.
"The Combat Paper Project is designed to unite communities (veteran and non-veteran) through dialogue and paper/printmaking methods," explains Cameron. "Our goal is to connect people with expressive tools to help 'unpack' the complex associations and diverse emotions that are carried through the experience of military service. Whether it begins with an individual, a small group, a gallery exhibition or a college classroom the exchange that takes place is humbling, moving, and inspiring. The narrative spans generations, perspectives, regions, ideologies, beliefs and assumptions. Everyone's story has a place."
The Combat Paper Project involves using paper/printmaking techniques to transform used military uniforms into handmade paper, onto which stories and images are crafted by the participants. "The art empowers the individual's voice, and in this process we believe a compassionate response is born," explains Cameron.
In the past four years, the organization has conducted more than 60 workshops in 19 states, collaborating with hundreds of veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Bosnia, Haiti, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Some served in combat, some in support, and some on multiple tours. As more uniforms are liberated, the narrative of the paper becomes more diverse, carrying the many layers of story interwoven into the fibers of the paper.
"This is a powerful project, and our participants will most certainly be moved by it," says Tim Castle, MCC Art Professor. "It's personal, it's emotional, it's healing, and it's transformative. We've not done anything like this before at MCC, but we're excited about this opportunity. As the project begins, we want to give a special thanks to the Marshalltown Salvation Army for the donation of used clothing items that will become raw material for the project."
Cameron arrives in Marshalltown on Oct. 31 and will meet with the first MCC class that evening. A studio will be set up where Cameron and others will begin to process fibers while he conducts additional class visits and presentations at MCC. The public is invited to an open presentation on the Combat Paper Project on Wednesday, Nov. 2, from noon to 1 pm in the MCC Student Union, room 303. Open workshops will also be held on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 3 & 4. On Nov. 8 Cameron will have lunch with the Marshalltown Rotary Club.
"With military service, conflicts often find their way home with those who serve, impacting individuals and entire communities," says Cameron. "This project offers an artistic practice to help others face the tragedies of our time with patience and reverence. As they do that, their words and intentions become clear. We learn that we can face conflicts as an individual, but are reinforced when we are part of a greater whole. The progress happens one uniform at a time."
Castle says that some of the artworks may be displayed from mid- to late November in MCC's Ray Frederick Gallery, if participants are willing. No specific show dates are scheduled at this time.
Those interested can learn more about the Combat Paper Project by visiting the website at