Kapsner brings national attention to Veterans Art Project

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

Standing on the same stage at the National VFW convention as President Barack Obama and GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Charles Kapsner of Little Falls, shared the vision of the Veterans Art History Project, giving it national exposure and support. Kapsner, who finished the 8-foot by 10-foot painting depicting the history of the Army, is currently working on the painting that will recreate the history of the Navy. (Photo by Jim Tuorila, VFW National Surgeon General)

World-renowned artist  and Little Falls resident Charles Kapsner brushed up on another skill recently — public speaking.

Kapsner stood before people from across the country during the VFW National Convention in Reno, Nev., July 24, sharing the vision of the historic Veterans Art Project. In doing so, he brought national attention to the project spearheaded in Little Falls at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery.

The project is designed as an educational tool on the history of the five branches of the military — the Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard — each captured on an 8-foot by 10-foot canvas.

The first painting, that of the Army, was completed in November 2011 and is on display at Committal Hall at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery. Kapsner is now working on the painting for the Navy.

Kapsner said the reception of the project was very good. “What was interesting was getting in front of an audience of 4,000, including state commanders and presidents from all of the different 50 states, VFW and Auxiliaries,” said Kapsner. “There is someone in every state of the union that knows what we’re up to now.”

After his presentation, people continually stopped him to thank him and to give him business cards because they were interested in supporting the project.

Kapsner credits Joe Schirmers, the VFW state chaplain from St. Cloud, for his place on this national stage. Through Schirmers, Kapsner has met so many people  that have helped bring attention to the project.

Following his presentation, he was invited to hospitality rooms and met many state commanders who wanted more information. “I think it’s going to open up a major venue,” he said.

“It’s an amazing thing,” said Kapsner. “Three years after we have the project going, we’re on the national stage announcing to the country what’s going on.”

Kapsner was interviewed by Armed Forces Radio for a broadcast in early August. Thursday, he has an interview in Minneapolis with the Minnesota Network Hour.

One of the most impressive elements for Kapsner, he said, was seeing how the VFW operates on the national level.

“They really focus on education,” he said, as recognition was offered for teachers across the country. “That was real interesting, a lot of stuff focusing in that realm, which really made it perfect for me to be presenting at the conference. It went hand in hand.”

In September, Kapsner will travel to Seattle, Wash. His brother-in-law, Jeff Stoch, an engineer and with the Navy, has put together four different events.

As Kapsner spends time with admirals and Gail Munroe, lead historian and head curator for the Navy art collection in Washington, D.C., he feels the project is “getting a lot of great response.”

Admiral Henry McKinney set up meeting time with two different admirals and their staffs and “Pretty much opened the doors to whatever I need,” said Kapsner. What he needs is research material for the painting of the Navy.

Since March, Kapsner has been sketching and painting portraits of models coming into his studio. He has spent a lot of time with Howard Warnberg, someone he’s known since the 1970s, a Navy veteran. Warnberg also served as a county commissioner with Kapsner’s father.

“Several of the portraits are done with a whole new background,” said Kapsner. He said about 95 percent of the 32-inch by 40-inch drawing is completed, a step he’ll finish before buying canvas for the 8-foot by 10-foot painting, and plans to begin within the next couple of months.

“I’m chomping at the bit. It was incredibly exciting to do that first painting, but I needed to take a break after first one,” he said.

The Navy painting won’t feature as many figures, but the figures will be bigger and the painting will show the great expanse of the ocean, something Admiral Walker instilled in him, Kapsner said.

If all goes well, the painting should be completed and on display at the Minnesota State Veterans Cemetery by Memorial Day 2013.

The Navy should be done in less time than the Army painting, he said, because he’s simplified a few steps.

Kapsner’s presentation at the National VFW Convention will soon be available for view on his Web site www.buonfresco.com. There, people will find more information on the project, as well as how to contribute to its success.