Vietnam War posters show tumultuous time

By Alan Krawitz

History, politics and art come together to help teach students and the public about one of the most turbulent and controversial eras in American history: the Vietnam War. More than 30 Vietnam War protest posters in addition to photographs and other archival materials are part of a new exhibit at the Godwin-Ternbach Museum at Queens College now through Dec 21.

Queens College alumni who donated and created the posters will return to celebrate the college’s 75th anniversary and talk about their experiences during the Vietnam War years for this exhibit. Alumni Mark Levy and Wally Rosenthal, who were also participants in the protests during the ’60s and ’70s, moderated the presentation last week.

According to Amy Winter, the museum’s director and curator, the inspiration behind the exhibit, titled “Posters as History: Teaching History, Politics and Art with Primary Sources,” came from QC Professor Jack Zevin, who teaches secondary education, and Professor Michael Krasner, who teaches political science. The professors received a grant from the Library of Congress as part of their funding to put on the exhibit.

Winter said the professors’ idea was to use the posters as a primary source for teaching how objects serve as evidence to history, as well as their effectiveness in compelling conversation. Professors Krasner and Zevin noted that the exhibit is a prime example of using active learning to increase civic awareness and promote informed citizenship.

“The museum has worked on numerous projects with the Secondary Education Department to further our core educational mission to teach with objects,” Winter said. “Art not only cultivates greater expression and literacy, but heightens cultural and social awareness. It is an unparalleled tool for stimulating discussion and debate of important issues.”

Queens veteran Ben Chitty, of the local chapter of Vietnam Veterans Against the War and a representative from Warrior Writers, is expected to attend an Educators’ Evening event Nov. 28 at 6 p.m. for local teachers about the use of art and digital materials for online curriculum development.

Moreover, Winter explained that much of the exhibit’s importance, in her opinion, is “how history repeats itself, as in the parallels and relevance of the Vietnam War for our current political climate and events such as wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the need to understand the ways in which as citizens we can speak up and voice our dissent and opinions to what we may see as unnecessary and unjust wars — and hopefully stop the militarization and escalation of warfare and hostility in our country.”

She added, “So art is a vehicle for this. It is concrete and, in the case of posters, highly accessible — being a popular and well-circulated medium.”

Other free and public programs that are part of the exhibit include lectures, talks, gallery tours and a film series of iconic Vietnam war films including “Apocalypse Now,” “The Killing Fields” and “Coming Home.”

For further information on the exhibition and programs, or to schedule a tour, call (718) 997-4724 or visit the museum website at www.qc.cuny.edu/godwin_ternbach.

More from Around New York