In an effort to ease his own difficult transition from military to civilian life, a Brown County Army veteran is finding a way to help others. Magnus Johnson created Elder Heart, a non-profit that will pay veterans to create public art.
Johnson swings a sledge hammer into a limestone block, hoping to split a fissure in the rock to create a crack. His next step will be to bracket the stone back together with steel bands–a symbol for a healed wound.
He is selling this sculpture to a Philadelphia business owner. The profits will fund another art project Johnson hopes he can pay other veteran’s to work on.
Johnson served in the Army and the Special Forces for eight years, spending more than 28 months in combat. And when he came to Brown County after his discharge, the new life he was looking forward to didn’t pan out like he thought it would.
“Severe headaches, depression, apathy, being lethargic and what I finally started to realize was that I didn’t have a network of friends,” Johnson says. “I didn’t have a network that I was staying closely attached and related to. I wasn’t involved in anything.”
He befriended local artist Jim Connor who let him use the tools in his shop for a creative outlet.
“We decided, through artwork, to try and help people and not just for the soldiers but for the community so we got this idea to create public art pieces that are built by combat veterans,” Connor says.
The art can be a way of starting a dialogue between veterans and civilians.
“What we’re talking about are these experiences that were significant, traumatizing, humbling,” Johnson says.
Johnson is looking for more people to get involved in his next project; a steel liar’s bench that will stay on display in Nashville when it’s complete.