America Supports You: Woman Shares Her Love for Patriotic Art
By Ashleigh Covington
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 4, 2006 Eileen Schwartz did not lose a loved one in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but she did lose a deep sense of security.
A sample of artwork submitted to the Flags Across the Nation annual art contest. This piece is featured on note cards that are sold on the Web site to raise money for troop-support causes. Courtesy photo
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Schwartz wanted to release her fears and bring the patriotic spirit back to her hometown of San Diego. As a result, she founded Flags Across the Nation, hoping to make a difference and display the American spirit for all citizens to see.
"I wanted to capture that feeling of unity," she said. "It felt like people, me especially, were healing. So I started personally photographing anything from the American flag to patriotic people and signs."
Flags is an organization that promotes patriotism through the arts, Schwartz said. A volunteer group with many projects directed to the patriotic education of children, it's is a member of the Defense Department's America Supports You program, which showcases Americans' efforts to support servicemembers and their families. It also gained much of its momentum from the attention it has received as an America Supports You organization, she said.
"Our mission is to promote patriotism through the arts. We're a volunteer organization -- real grassroots efforts -- and many people find out about us through our Web sites. And now that we're associated through ASY, we are getting a lot of people e-mailing wanting to participate," said Schwartz.
With the help of many volunteers, Schwartz delegated other programs emphasizing patriotism and giving back to the men and women serving our country. By donating robes and blankets and sending letters and cards to the troops, Schwartz allowed people to express their support for servicemembers and the United States.
"We keep coming up with additional ideas on how we can reach the public, support the troops and build patriotism. We thought we really needed to address our concerns for the returning military and the wounded and recovering servicemen and women," she said. "We thought a way to show support would be to send them letters, send them art, and send them blankets."
Now residing in Charlotte, N.C., Schwartz continues to encourage children to show their support for America and the troops who protect the nation at home and abroad. Even though Schwartz's photography gained the initial attention, it was her strong compassion for children that helped keep Flags going.
"Children are so creative and like to express themselves through art. We felt we could reach the kids by involving them with doing artwork with the flag and learning about some of the values that are associated with America," She said. "We were looking for an easy way to reach children so that they could get involved with patriotism."
Through an annual art contest started in 2004, Schwartz called upon children to display their understanding of patriotism. This summer, children's patriotic art from the collection of Flags Across The Nation can be seen at the Charlotte Museum of History. The contest received 750 pieces from children representing 13 different states and 22 different cities. The children range from preschool to middle school ages.
"Ultimately, we think that children's art is just wonderful," she said. It's cheerful, it's uplifting, it's innocent, and we encourage the kids when they enter our contest to use red, white and blue."
The contest selects four pieces of art to be featured on note cards Schwartz sells on the Flags Web site. Originally Schwartz used the cards for her personal use, however a friend suggested she start selling them to raise money for military support efforts.
Schwartz said she hopes to continue her patriotic pursuit. Though she does not have any personal connections to the military, Schwartz said, she understands the troops' need for support regardless, and hopes others will share in her spirit to support servicemembers.
"They are the people who are dedicating their lives and their time and their the hearts to support America and to support the concepts of freedom," she said. "Every time I receive a letter from someone in the military, my heart is touched all over again. It's motivating for me. I like being able to reach out to all these men and women who obviously care about this country and care about freedom."