Army Combat veteran chosen to display artwork at GVSU during ArtPrize

A rendering of "Locked and Loaded" by Kimberly Walker
A rendering of "Locked and Loaded" by Kimberly Walker
Image credit - courtesy of Kimberly Walker

After retiring from the United States Army in 2015 following 17 years of service, Kimberly Walker began searching for her voice as an artist. She has since found that voice in the form of sharing stories of sexual assault in the military through her artwork.

Walker, an Ohio-based artist and Army Combat veteran, was selected during a recent ArtPrize Pitch Night to become the sole artist who will display artwork at Grand Valley’s Eberhard Center during ArtPrize, taking place September 19-October 7.

ArtPrize Pitch Night events provide artists in five different U.S. cities with the opportunity to present a five-minute pitch for an idea for a piece of artwork that would be on display at a high-profile venue in Grand Rapids during ArtPrize to a panel of five judges using only five presentation slides. The selected artists each receive a $5,000 grant to bring their ideas to life.

Grand Valley’s Art Gallery staff narrowed the pool of artists in the Cincinnati, Ohio, area down to five, and Walker was selected by the panel of judges.

Walker’s piece, titled “Locked and Loaded,” will consist of 46 military-issue duffle bags representing 46 cases of sexual assault in the military. She said that through her years of research she discovered that none of the cases were disclosed to the general public.

The bags will be stacked on wooden pallets, which Walker said will serve as a symbolic seven-foot wall that draws the line between the military and civilians. The bottom of each bag will display the name and rank of women who were victims of sexual assault while serving in the military. The tops of the bags will be padlocked, which Walker said will represent permanence and secrecy. A block of cement with 46 keys embedded into its surface will sit on the ground beside the wall of duffle bags.

“Kimberly’s comprehensive proposal for ‘Locked and Loaded’ addresses a weighty social issue impacting women in the military, in the arts and throughout society in an artistic, concise and compelling way,” said Stacey Burns, Grand Valley Art Gallery programs manager.

Burns said that Walker’s proposal best fit the Grand Valley team’s criteria, which included installation logistics, artistic merit, budget, various curatorial considerations and aligning with the university's mission and values.

Walker said that displaying her piece at Grand Valley will give her an expedited opportunity to spread her message.

“This is something that I thought would take me a lot longer since I am a new artist and still in art school,” she said. “ArtPrize and Grand Valley have given me an important opportunity to share these stories.”

For more information about this year’s ArtPrize, visit


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