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" Visual artists have power, and with this exhibition we will use this power as another democratic check and balance."
Jane Irish, artist and exhibition organizer
In September 1970, a small but rapidly growing VVAW arranged its own homecoming parade. The event, called Operation RAW (Rapid American Withdrawal), dispatched 84 battle-clad veterans on a four-day march through the towns and countryside of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. It was a wonderful example of true guerilla theatre / performance art. At designated points along the march these antiwar veterans reenacted actions that they had performed in Vietnam against civilians including harassment and interrogation. Operation RAW happened here in the Philadelphia/NJ region and nowhere else in the USA. On Labor Day, 1970, the veterans arrived in Valley Forge Military Park, over 200 strong where they performed a final sweep mission culminating in a peace rally where they “broke arms” with 2000 supporters looking on. Speeches were offered by soldiers, sympathizers, politicians, and celebrities - including John Kerry, Jane Fonda, and Donald Sutherland.
In September of 2005 (scheduled for September 2 - 25, 2005 at the Ice Box Project Space and also part of the Live Arts Festival and Philly Fringe) visual artists will mark the 35th anniversary of Operation RAW. Curator and artist Jane Irish has conceived of and is organizing the commemorative show to celebrate the antiwar veteran as a metaphor of heroic resistance and to teach the real history of the creativity of the antiwar veteran.Eighty-four artists have been invited to participate by creating a new art work in response to the 1970 Operation RAW march.
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