The walls of the Veteran Services office at Richland College are a little more beautiful thanks to retired U.S. Army veteran Bryce Hansen, who recently donated a custom-painted piece of artwork. His piece, titled “High Five,” is a colorful depiction of the High Five Interchange, a five-level freeway interchange in Dallas and near Richland College, on which Hansen drives daily for his commute to and from work.
“I look out of my office window every single day and see these highways,” said Hansen, vice president of energy operations at Power Brokers. “I wanted my painting to show that something so mundane and ordinary that people take for granted can be beautiful, just like veterans. You see something all the time–a road, a bridge, a veteran–and you take it for granted.”
Hansen served in the U.S. Army from 1996 to 2012, where he worked as an enlisted mechanic before graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point as a Green Berets commander. He also spent two years in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. His time in the special forces resulted in a predominant and persistent problem in his personal life: emotional detachment.
His return home from deployment left him struggling to connect with his civilian roots. Although he was surrounded by many people, he felt detached, lonely and angry. In order to be more present as a father, husband and a friend, he turned to art. “My art is a safe place where I can be completely open and honest,” said Hansen. “So, while I paint to be free, I also paint as a means to relearn how to be vulnerable and to love.”
Earlier this year, Pedro Navagonzalez, USMC retired and Richland College Veteran Services program services coordinator, found Hansen’s artwork through LinkedIn and was impressed. Navagonzalez reached out to Hansen and asked if he would be willing to create something unique for the Veteran Services office at Richland College. “We discussed what Veteran Services was creating for the students, and I really appreciated the efforts the staff was doing to brighten up the space. I wanted to lend a hand,” explained Hansen.
“High Five” features blue, black, white and cream paints and is filled with beautiful intersecting lines and busy cars, which are meant to depict regular Dallas highways in a picturesque way.
“I believe that having artwork created by veterans not only makes the office look professional, but it also helps inspire other veterans to pursue their passions,” said Navagonzalez. “The painting that Bryce did is a great piece of art. The colors are amazing and the picture speaks volumes of our way of life in the Dallas metroplex.”
Manager of Veteran Services Jody Addison added, “This piece is personal and local for us. We are excited to show it off to all of our students who come in here. We are super proud, and we are hanging it right here in the hall, really prominently, for everyone to see.”
Unlike some of his other work, Hansen did not want his piece for Richland College to represent anything military-related. “I wanted to step out from my niche artwork of military-themed pieces and create a contemporary piece with crossover appeal to a civilian audience,” he explained. “I find the commute to work as a time where many people get stressed racing to and from their job. I try to use that time to open my mind and do a deep-dive in self-reflection.”
Hansen’s piece is not the first to grace the walls of Veteran Services. They also have artwork from Michael P. Solovey (U.S. Army retired) and George D. Romero (spouse of a U.S. Air Force veteran). These are currently hanging in the office for the enjoyment of student veterans, family members and staff. In addition, the office has a sculpture on display by student Lorie Justice, who won the 2019 Veterans Day Art Contest. Her ceramic and wood sculpture features a white stone representing a tomb, fallen leaves representing the lost and two white statues representing those who are reflecting. In the coming months, the Veteran Services office is looking forward to adding two additional pieces that highlight the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy.
Currently, Hansen is working on a series of people and scenes from the Global War on Terror. Samples of his artwork, including “High Five”, are available on his Instagram account, @bryce.n.hansen.
Richland College was listed as one of the U.S.’s top military-friendly schools by G.I. Jobs 2019-2020 and was awarded a “Silver” designation, with G.I. Jobs noting that only a select group of institutions achieves this honor. Veteran Services establishes a partnership with veteran students and their families to facilitate the completion of their educational goals. Active-duty personnel in the U.S. Armed Forces, veterans, veterans’ dependents and spouses, reservists and beneficiaries of related military educational programs can utilize the resources that the Veteran Services office provides. Additional information is available at www.richlandcollege.edu/veteran.