They are steel-reinforced concrete walls that are 12-feet tall and built for combat zones, specifically to protect military members from enemies.
But the structures, commonly referred to as T-walls, have come to serve another purpose.
“When we got bored, we would graffiti on the walls,” recounts U.S. Army veteran Dave Rogers, a combat veteran of the the Gulf War.
Rogers is also an artist and a resident of Artspace Lofts in Patchogue.
He recently hooked up with a nonprofit organization called The Graffiti of War Project, which has collected thousands of images from these walls.
The works range from detailed murals, like one that depicts a Medieval battle scene, to cartoon characters such as Stewie from Family Guy.
Thanks to help from volunteers, explained Graffiti of War’s chief operating officer, Stephen Tenner, the group has successfully recreated thousands of pieces of photographed artwork on unconventional canvasses meant to mimic the look of concrete. The recreations appear as if they were pulled right from a T-wall.
But the group’s ultimate goal is to raise money for veterans suffering from traumatic brain injuries and post traumatic stress disorder.
To help those efforts along, The Graffiti of War Project is traveling across the U.S. on a Walls of War Tour to display and sell their replica artwork. The 2017 tour kicks off in Patchogue at the Artspace Art Exhibit on 20 Terry Street from June 25 to July 15.
“We have the largest collection of conflict art,” he added. “We have over 13,000 images of art that is either painted over or destroyed after soldiers left.”
The 2,000-square-foot gallery, with Rogers as its curator, will be extending its hours for the event. Usually open three days a week, the show will run Monday through Friday, from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., in Artspace.
The art gallery will be transformed into what will feel like a combat zone in Iraq or Afghanistan, with recreated T-walls.
“You’re going to walk in and it’s going to bring you back to the war,” said Tenner.
And on July 8, Artspace will be playing host to a special event from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., during which their will be an outdoor display with special guests. Patchogue Village will be closing down Terry Street to allow for the show.
The event is free to attend, but there is a suggested $10 donation, Rogers said.
One of the major benefactors will be Project9Line of Long Island, which works to “enable veterans to express themselves uniquely through forms of art.”
The Graffiti of War Project was founded in 2010 by veterans Jaeson “Doc” Parsons, Rob Craven, and Jeremy Mull, who wanted to help fellow fighters suffering from TBI and PTSD.
Rogers explained that art is form of therapy for soldiers, both overseas and at home.
“As someone who is now suffering with PTSD and TBI, I realize the importance of art and art-related programs,” said Rogers. “It allows veterans the ability to express themselves and talk about experiences.”
Not everyone had the opportunity to paint while in war zones.
According to Rogers, only those with artistic ability were allowed to decorate T-walls. And he was one of them.
“We used chalk, paint, or anything we could get our hands on,” he said.
Rogers even recalls painting Native American warriors with tomahawk weapons while serving in Iraq in support of friendly apache helicopters flying by.
“It was a lot of fun creating that,” he said smiling.
Top Photo: Artspace curators Dave Rogers (left) and Richard Gardiner (right) with Graffiti of War’s Stephen Tenner (middle).