What started out as a high school art project less than a year ago has grown into a huge memorial exhibit that may soon be traveling to Washington, D.C.

What started out as a high school art project less than a year ago has grown into a huge memorial exhibit that may soon be traveling to Washington, D.C.

The Remembrance Memorial consists of more than 4,050 figurative sculptures, one to honor each United States serviceman and woman killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and also to remember those who continue to serve their country.

Currently on display at Battleship Cove, the Remembrance Memorial gave reason for song on Sunday. More than 10 local musicians performed at Waterstreet Cafe to raise money to transport the exhibit to Washington.

Merilee Bowers, an art teacher at Somerset High School and founder of the project, said $4,000 is still needed. She said she hopes to display the sculptures in the nation’s capital, but plans are still tentative.

Bowers said the project began as a way to “jar the consciousness of our students” and make them aware of the individual lives being lost. It is not political in any way, she ensured.

“I try to just remember,” Bowers said. “I just feel. I work with young kids who are joining and are being sent to war. It is a level of awareness.”

The project started in November 2006 at Somerset High School. Some 700 students and staffers were organized to create these individual memorials.

“I remember thinking it was incredible,” said Chris Fisher, a 2007 Somerset High School graduate who worked on the memorial and is now a student at Salve Regina College.

Fisher attended the benefit at Waterstreet Cafe Sunday to support his former teacher.

All of the sculptures created at the high school were hand sewn. Steeped tea, because of the healing properties associated with it, was used to dye material and strips of paper. Each piece of paper contains a soldier’s name. Some of the forms have missing limbs and heads as a way to reflect the reality of war.

More and more sculptures are continuing to be created as the number of war casualties grows. By now, some 1,000 individuals have contributed to the project.

Bowers said it was her hope that the project would become much bigger than a high school art lesson.

“I told (my students) they could make a difference,” Bowers said. “We’ve been working all summer and spring.”

Two other Somerset High School graduates, Sarah Laurie and Nicole Aguiar, were on hand at the fundraising event to assist Bowers.

Aguiar said of the Remembrance Memorial: “I thought it was a very unique idea.”
“It’s come a long way in a year,” Laurie said.

Jassalyn Pickering is currently taking Bowers’ sculpture class as a Somerset High School junior. She said the project was “very thoughtful. It reminds us just how many people suffered and died.”

For more information about the Remembrance Memorial or to donate to the cause, log on to www.remembrance-iraqafghan.com.

E-mail Deborah Allard of the Fall River (Mass.) Herald News at dallard@heraldnews.com.