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Airman's artistic display garners national attention

  • Published
  • By Emily Dech, Staff Reporter
  • Richland Source
A tour of the 179th Airlift Wing may lead visitors to one of Tech. Sgt. Joe Harwood's pieces of art--whether it was a photo he took, a mural he painted, or a display he created.

As a public affairs specialist at the local base, Harwood is very involved in the creation of various artistic pieces, including a display that illustrates the history and heritage of aviation in Mansfield. The display, which consists of five panels, placed first in the Air Force Media Contest at the state level and third at the national level in the graphic and layout design category.  

Harwood said he worked closely with retired Lt. Col. Len Sipe on this project. Together, they sorted through an estimated 20,000 photographs to use for the display. After they narrowed down their selection of photos, Harwood created designs for the six-feet-tall panels using Adobe Photoshop, and Sipe wrote descriptions to go with each panel.

The first panel depicts Frank P. Lahm, a Mansfield native who was a general officer in the United States Army Air Corps and Army Air Forces. The Mansfield Lahm Airport, where the 179th Airlift Wing is stationed, was named in his honor.

"Mansfield has a rich aviation heritage because of the ties to Frank P. Lahm," said Harwood.

The display captures significant moments and people who have impacted local aviation from the early 1900s to the present time.

Harwood said he began working on this project near the beginning of 2014 and finished the fifth panel in October. Premier Graphics constructed the panels using his graphics, he said.

The panels now line the wall in Larson Hall, which was named in honor of the late Brigadier General Fred Larson.

Harwood said they hope to keep adding new panels later on as the base experiences more historical moments. "We're constantly writing our story," he said.

By working on this project, he learned a lot, he said. "When I first joined the Air Force, I knew so little about the service in general," he admitted. "So to really dive into the heritage of this unit and the people that were here was really a neat thing. I enjoyed it a lot; it was a really fun project for me."

The news of his first place achievement came as a surprise, he said. It is the first time he submitted a piece for the contest.

"I don't seek out recognition for stuff like this, but this particular project I'm very proud of for what it is. It's recognizing so much history and the greatness of all these people that were out here before. It helps tell their story and I think that that is really cool, and I want to push that out as much as I can," he said.

Though this is the first time for Harwood to have entered and placed in the Air Force Media Contest, he has been recognized for other pieces he's created. Recently, he was recognized for a Challenge Coin that he designed for the 121st Medical Group in Columbus.

Harwood said he's always had a passion for art. He took art classes at The Ohio State University at Mansfield and North Central State College. He also studied under artist Bill Kufahl for one year in Westlake.

So it's no surprise that, "From the time that I was in student flight out here I started doing art projects and side projects, because that's who I am and what I really do passionately is art," he said.