Welcome to Season Two of The Artists You Should Know.
To begin, I have to share that after Robert LeHeup, the founder of Bullets and Bandaids and I spoke, I was a bit intimidated and nervous. Would I get his story right? It is very important to me to represent artists to the best of my ability and to honor the privilege that I have been given to share their stories. So, considering Robert’s talent and status as a professional writer and his unquestionable calling to the mission of Bullets and Bandaids – to allow veterans to be heard, I was concerned, honestly, if I had the juice to do so. But then I thought, that is probably how a lot of the veterans who share their experiences with the artists (who then creatively retell the experiences of veterans using their talents) feel initially – ‘Is my story interesting or important’ or ‘Someone else could share how it was better’. Truthfully, Robert’s passion has convinced me that
Thus, here is my retelling of our conversation. Enjoy.
Robert LeHeup is the founder of Bullets and Bandaids, a not-for-profit organization that links artists with veterans to share their often unheard stories. As a veteran Marine and writer, Robert knew how vital the exchange of lived experience had been in his life and wanted that for other veterans. His project, like his nature, kindles lights of meaning by sharing perspectives, knowledge, and individual histories.
When you come across Robert, he projects the most vibrant energy. His smile was warm; I just felt like hugging him upon meeting. His passion for his program, but more specifically, the veterans that he is serving, may sound cliche, but is legitimate, and infectious— if you are not swept up in it, you are missing something.
Growing up on TV, movies, and comics, Robert was not only entertained by what people wrote and created from the practice of writing, but he was also educated and nurtured by those forms of entertainment, like so many other Gen-X, latch-key kids. Even in his youth, he remembers valuing the power of writing and storytelling to transport someone out of their reality or at least neutralize an environment that could be arduous.
You see, if you are lucky enough to speak to Robert, he seamlessly quotes Rumi and Carl Jung. He laughs easily, and at times, remembers so vividly that you want to hold a safe space for him. To say he has a big personality and wears his heart where the Marine stripes used to be sewn, does not cut it. This man reminds me of when I have spoken to people who have been called to faith walks, or humanitarian causes, or to be teachers or nurses – People who have chosen the harder path without seemingly much reward. But for those people that are called, I believe they would share that when they are ‘on purpose’ they are more at peace (even in the disquiet of the work) than if they were doing anything that a bystander might consider easier.
Robert began Bullets and Bandaids in 2012 and has already published four volumes of anthologies that include writing and visual art and illuminate the real experiences of veterans from all military branches. The accounts of pride and pain, conflict and crimes, love and loneliness are better than anything you may currently find on Netflix. He shared with me that Bullets and Bandaids was created from a sense of ‘lack’ — because most of his friends had died, including his dog. He created a project that would change the trajectory of his life. Bullets and Bandaids was to give purpose to some of the experiences and ghosts that he was walking around with.
Currently, Bullets and Bandaids: A Veteran Anthology [Volume 4] is being exhibited at Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida through March 9th. This past Fall, the show had a dynamic turnout at both the Columbia Museum of Art and then at the Harbison Theatre. Each time their traveling show exhibits it is sure to spur life-changing conversations and provide the overall community with an opportunity to experience remarkable works, with some of the art produced by award-winning artists. Bullets and Bandaids is more than worthy of the support and attention that it has garnered while growing its powerful collections. Robert LeHeup is a man on a mission to illuminate others.
If you are a creative you may be able to contribute to the next volume of the anthology by means of their website: bulletsandbandaids.org. Everyone please give this unique organization a follow on Facebook or Instagram [bullets_and_bandaids].
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