Topics: College of Architecture and Planning, College of Communication Information and Media

October 22, 2014

The Healing Wall
Graduate student Christopher Kosinski filmed “The Healing Wall,” which aired at the Heartland Film Festival and on WIPB-TV.

In his documentary “The Healing Wall,” Ball State graduate student Christopher Kosinski explores the behind-the-scenes deals Vietnam Veterans Memorial organizers had to broker to bring granite artist Maya Lin’s vision to fruition.

The film debuted in October 2014 at the Heartland Film Festival’s annual Indiana Spotlight event. It also aired on WIPB-TV in November 2014.

The piece offers firsthand accounts of the events that inspired Jan Scruggs and Robert Doubek, the co-founders of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, to commission and then build a piece that was funded entirely by private donations.

Film details efforts to build memorial

The film offers a never-before-seen look at the memorial’s making and recollections from veterans who have visited since the site was dedicated in 1982.

Scruggs and Doubek’s first hurdle was to secure congressional approval of the site location.

Christopher Kosinski filmed

"The Healing Wall."

Then came a competition that garnered a winning entry from a then-college student, which led to the pair identifying the architects who, with Lin, would realize the design and create a memorial and place that each visitor would experience in unique and personal ways.

“Memorials in my opinion should encourage visitors to think on their own rather than telling them how to think,” Kosinski said. “In the case of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, it’s about remembering the names of the fallen. It puts a realistic perspective on the cost of war. If you go there and see the names on the wall, it’s a humbling experience but open for interpretation.”

Ball State professor helped build wall

Those 58,282 names were critical to the design of Lin’s piece and would ultimately inform every major decision about the memorial. Enter Carla Corbin, now a Ball State professor of landscape architecture, who worked as an architect for Cooper-Lecky, the firm selected by memorial co-founders Scruggs and Doubek.

“I became project manager, but most of the office worked on the project at one time or another,” Corbin said.

Lin’s disarmingly simple design was controversial and highly politicized at the time because of its unconventional approach. Yet it reflected her desire, shared by the founders and the architects and landscape architects, to leave the meaning of the memorial to each person who visited.

“It almost didn’t get built, or at least in the form you see it today,” Corbin said. “It’s a work that has had enormous influence — that credit belongs to Maya Lin and to those who recognized the potential in her very simple drawings, and her very powerful, precise description, as well as to those who persisted in getting it built with the design concept intact.

“I feel so lucky to have been a part of the process it took to bring the memorial to realization. The rigor of Lin’s ideas, and the integrity and commitment of a very small group of people… just to have been witness — it fuels your own beliefs about what can be possible.”

Film started as immersive learning project

Kosinski's film gives a behind-the-scenes look at

the building of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

The film grew out of an immersive learning project, led by Corbin and colleague Martha Hunt, also a landscape architecture professor. The project for the 20 students that included Kosinski was to develop a mobile app for the National Park Service that would offer Vietnam Veterans Memorial visitors first-person interviews and other information that could enrich a guest’s experience. The app is now in editing.

Kosinski said his ideas and opinions on the war and military service in general have expanded and adapted because of his work on “The Healing Wall.”

“I have a few friends who went to fight in the war in Afghanistan, and I appreciated them, but I don’t think I understood their work,” he said. “Now, the immense gratitude I have for our veterans and our military personnel brings me a whole new level of understanding. Thanks to them, I have the freedom to practice my craft and live my dream.”

He hopes the film can educate young people, not only about the Vietnam War, but about the sacrifices the few have made for the many.

“I can’t imagine being drafted for a war I didn’t want to fight, then coming home and being ridiculed for your efforts,” he said. “I want younger people to understand that freedom doesn’t come free.”

Kosinski’s executive producers on the film are senior emerging media major Rebekah Hobbs and alumna Kayla Sprayue, ’14, program assistant for the Wabash, Indiana-based Honeywell Foundation. Shane Dresch, ’15, a graduate student in telecommunications digital storytelling, served as Kosinski’s director of photography.