Probably the best decision I made in high school was joining the Arizona Heritage Project in my sophomore year. It was a school club, where we interviewed veterans living in Arizona about their service, and would then write an essay based on said interview that was published in a book annually (and archived by the Library of Congress!.) I initially joined only to do the artwork, as at the time I loathed writing, but I’m so glad that I ended up doing interviews. I’ll never forget the amazing stories I heard and the veterans I met.
I even interviewed the late renowned space/futurist artist Robert McCall who served during WWII, which was an incredible experience, to say the least. I was also quite starstruck, as he went over his incredible career-
2001: a Space Odyssey Space Station One by Robert McCall
Look familiar? He made the promotional artwork for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and was friends with Issac Asimov (no big deal or anything), among many other things. During the interview, I was especially taken aback by how optimistic and cheerful he was- I think I’d previously imagined war veterans as damaged individuals, eternally cynical, especially about the future, after having seen and experienced what they had. Bob really proved me wrong, talking with a characteristic glint in his eye about how excited he was for the future of America, the space program and technology. He even helped to strengthen my resolve to pursue art at a time where it seemed a silly or unattainable dream.
So, happy veteran’s day to all of you, but especially to the veterans I interviewed while in the project, and to Bob McCall’s family. Unfortunately, he died in 2010- just a year after I interviewed him. It was such a shock, as he seemed so intensely alive and vibrant when I talked to him- he was just one of those people who, when you talked to him, seemed like he would live forever. Thinking about him now, I think he’d be happy to hear that I’m still pursuing art, and he definitely had a big hand in that decision. So, thanks a ton Bob, and Godspeed.