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AF heritage, history on display at BWI airport

2/6/2009 - BALTIMORE (AFPN) -- The rich diversity, heritage and history of the Air Force can be seen as part of an exhibit on display at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport through July 30.

Nearly 50 pieces from the Air Force art collection are part of a rotating exhibit in the airport's international terminal which sees thousands of travelers each month.

The exhibit features "an extraordinary assortment of really great art," said Timothy Campbell, executive director of the Maryland Aviation Administration, during the exhibit's official opening ceremony Feb. 5 at the airport.
AF heritage, history on display at BWI airport
Mr. Campbell said the airport is fortunate to have these pieces on display documenting the achievements and history of military aerospace and aviation.

"The location of this exhibit in the international terminal is wonderful," said William Davidson, administrative assistant to the secretary of the Air Force. "The venue is beautiful; the natural lighting is wonderful but more important is its close proximity to our Air Mobility Command's passenger terminal.

"It's from this terminal that a large majority of our Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors and Marines leave for overseas deployments and return home," Mr. Davidson said. "Having these pieces from our Air Force art collection on display here gives us the opportunity to tell the story of what our men and women in uniform are accomplishing."

Mr. Davidson said having this exhibit on display during the month of February is special.

"February is African American History Month and this exhibit gives us a forum to recognize the diversity of our Airmen, past and present, and their vital contributions," he said. "Many of the pieces here today feature the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American pilots to serve in combat during World War II."

At that time, these Airmen not only were fighting the enemy abroad, but also discrimination at home and among their fellow soldiers, Mr. Davidson said. Despite these challenges, these Airmen served with distinction.

Even the red-painted tails of their aircraft, initially designed to warn other pilots that an African American was flying that plane, eventually became a point of pride, courage and determination of the Tuskegee Airmen to accomplish their mission despite racial barriers. This determination is something that those in the Air Force today are very proud of, Mr. Davidson said.

"We're also proud that our art collection does not focus solely on Airmen," he said. "We're members of a joint team and we've asked our artists to document not only our Airmen, but also the Soldiers, Sailors and Marines we work so closely with.

"Our artists aren't told what to paint, sketch or draw," Mr. Davidson said. "We just provide them the opportunity to accompany our Airmen on training, humanitarian and even combat operations to see for themselves what we're doing. They interact with our people accomplishing their missions and interpret what they see and experience firsthand to tell the true story of the Air Force and our people."

All of the artwork in the Air Force collection is donated by the artists, explained Russell Kirk, director of the Air Force Art Program.

"Our artists, a part of the larger Air Force family, sacrifice their time to travel the globe and cover our mission, produce beautiful pieces of art and then donate them to us," Mr. Kirk said. "Most say they do it because they want to give back something to the men and women who are defending our country and who sometimes make the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation."

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