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Coast Guard cadet paints himself into a corner

How one cadet's passion for painting has left him scrambling for space
Story and photos by: Petty Officer 1st Class NyxoLyno Cangemi, U.S. Coast Guard
Academy
Hunched over his makeshift easel set atop an overturned trash can, Coast Guard A
cademy Second Class Cadet Jacob Conrad feverishly paints in order to escape the
everyday pressures he faces while pursuing a mechanical engineering degree. Des
pite having painted more than 20 paintings since he reported to the U.S. Coast G
uard Academy in New London, Conn., the walls of his 223-square-foot dorm room ar
e as bare as the day he moved in, amplifying the irony of his makeshift art stud
io.
That's not to say Conrad's artwork isn't on display.
A Huntsville, Ala., native, Conrad's passion for painting began in high school a
fter he and his father built a drafting table. After spending months on his fir
st drawing, Conrad was pleased with the result but wanted a faster medium to exp
ress his artistic talent, so he turned to painting.
When Conrad arrived at the academy as a freshman, he decided to leave his paint
supplies at his parentsâ house, but after spending a year and a half at the academy,
he realized he needed to return to his art in order to escape the challenges an
d pressures commonly associated with a military academic life.
"All I did was watch the same movies every weekend or surf the internet, and I j
ust got sick of it," Conrad said. "I really missed painting. It can take up a
lot of time and help you relax. When you're working on thermo[dynamic] problems
for 15 hours a week, you need something like painting to help you escape."
After spending the holidays with his family his sophomore year, Conrad returned
to the academy with his art supplies in tow and began to paint.
While his return to painting allowed Conrad to mentally escape his surroundings,
a problem quickly emerged â he ran out of storage space.
An existing Coast Guard policy limits the amount of artwork cadets can display o
n their walls. With more than 20 paintings taking up precious space in his alre
ady-cramped dorm room, Conrad had painted himself into a corner.
"The policy is, you can have one piece of art of any kind - painting, drawing, p
icture, poster - on one wall of your room," Conrad said. "There are limits on t
he size, the kind of frame you can have it in, the color of the frame, how wide
the frame is - and I didn't want to hassle with all of that."
After being denied special permission to display more than one painting on his w
all, Conrad quickly devised a way to both comply with the policy and keep his ar
twork.
"I had a stack of paintings sitting in my closet, so I just typed up an e-mail t
o everyone in my company explaining the situation and asked if anyone wanted a p
ainting," Conrad said. "Within 20 minutes, they were all gone."
Conrad gave away each of his paintings as a type of loan, using his quick wits t
o effectively turn the cadet dorm rooms in Chase Hall into his own private art g
allery.
Second Class Cadet Rebecca Rebar was one of the last people to claim a painting
for her own, which she displays in her dorm room above her bed.
"I didn't want all his hard work he put into his paintings just put into a trunk
somewhere no one would ever get to see them," Rebar said. "At least if they're
on our walls we can appreciate them every time we walk into our rooms."
While he originally wanted to display his paintings in his own room, Conrad enjo
ys seeing his art on display throughout the various dorm rooms.
"It's kind of cool, because I get to walk around and see them in people's rooms,
" Conrad said. "It's almost more fun to see a painting you haven't seen in a wh
ile than it is to see it all the time. It worked out great."
Since learning of his talents, additional cadets have stepped forward and reques
ted paintings. Whenever Conrad creates a new painting, he gives it away to a fe
llow cadet, allowing him the leeway he needs to continue painting.
While Conrad may have left the comfort and support of his family more than 1,000
miles away in their Alabama home, his new family of Coast Guard shipmates conti
nue to support him, opening their doors (and their walls) to his paintings.
Conrad's on track to graduate from the academy in 2012, and when he does, he hop
es his first assignment takes him to flight school to train as a Coast Guard hel
icopter pilot. Until then, he says he'll continue to paint.
Coast Guard Second Class Cadet Jacob Conrad is a native of Huntsville, Ala., but
graduated in 2008 from Acton-Boxborough Regional High School in Acton, Mass. C
onrad is the son of David and Jane Conrad of Madison, Ala.

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