News: 38,000-pound canvas honors African American History Month
Story by Senior Master Sgt. George Thompson
UNDISCLOSED LOCATION - For anyone that has deployed to the U.S. Air Forces Central Command Area of Responsibility you can count on Jersey, California, Texas or Alaska concrete ‘T-Wall’ barriers as a part of your daily landscape.
Fortunately, artistic airmen like Master Sgt. William Dawson, 386th Expeditionary Civil Engineering Squadron, deploy to the region armed with a passion for art.
“I used to work for a graphic artist that painted motorcycles and cars,” Dawson said. “I worked under him and got a basic knowledge of artwork.”
Dawson is an engineering assistant deployed from McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base and when he is not deployed, Dawson is a transportation technician for the State of Tennessee.
“I do my military job as a civilian so I’m very fortunate,” he said.
Dawson’s deployment to the 386th came at a picture-perfect time as the African American History Month coordinator was actively searching for an artist to paint a T-Wall.
“I asked if I could help out,” he said. “I thought it might be a little easier for someone like me to do a concept than let people pick and choose.”
The 386th African American History Month committee followed the 2013 theme of ‘At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington’ as the base design for the T-Wall.
“I thought it would be good to incorporate different things in African American culture, all the influences it’s had on American society,” he said.
The final design incorporated six areas and prominent figures in African American culture. “The toughest part is taking such a big topic like this and trying to encompass everything in such a small space and not miss something,” he said.
“The ones I have are Abraham Lincoln for politics, Tuskegee Airmen for military, Maya Angelo for literature, George Washington Carver for science, B.B. King for music and Jackie Robinson for sports,” he said.
Dawson estimates it will take 15 to 20 hours to stencil the project after work but Dawson will not allow the early winter sunsets to stand in his way of completing the project.
“We’re CE we can put carts out there with lights on them,” he said.
Even as the unveiling nears, Dawson remains a far cry from your mainstream uncompromising artist.
“Until the last brush stroke happens, it’s still a work in progress,” he said.