Exhibit info

About the Exhibit: Facts, Figures & Frequently Asked Questions


“No matter what your feelings are about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there’s an exhibit…at Arlington National Cemetery that will definitely tug at your heart…
It’s an extraordinary exhibit.”
- Matt Lauer, NBC, March 2005 introducing his coverage of the Exhibition Opening

Over 45,000 visitors each month visit Faces of the Fallen, the exhibit of portraits depicting service men and women who died in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  To date, the exhibit has been seen by more than 650,000.
More than 1,300 portraits fill the Women in Military Service for America Memorial, located at the gateway to Arlington National Cemetery.  Since the exhibit opened on March 22, 2005 it has stirred the emotions of everyone who has seen it, brought together family members of the fallen and generated widespread media coverage. 

Faces of the Fallen was conceived by Annette Polan, a prominent Washington, D. C. portrait artist and professor at the Corcoran College of Art and Design.  She was inspired by photographs of the Iraq war’s casualties that appeared in the newspaper. More than 200 artists, ranging from professionals to students, joined the project.  Working from photographs, they created 6x8 inch portraits in a wide variety of media and styles.  CORE architecture+design, an award-winning DC firm, conceived the design of the display.  Portraits are mounted on steel staffs of varying heights, rising from wooden platforms, with individual nameplates identifying each soldier.  The exhibit includes those who died up to November 11, 2004.   
More than 2,500 people attended the opening of the exhibit--most of them family members of the service men and women in the portraits.  They came from 44 states and from as far away as India and Australia for the event, the largest gathering of families who had lost loved ones in Iraq. 
Lengthy articles about the exhibit appeared in most of the nation’s major newspapers, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and USA Today.  All of the network evening newscasts devoted a segment to Faces of the Fallen, as did CNN, PBS, and French and German television channels.  Wire services in Japan, Russia, Australia and France also have covered the exhibit.
The exhibit transcends the political divisions that have accompanied the war in Iraq.  Its nonpolitical nature is reflected by the bipartisan list of honorary co-chairs:  Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), John McCain (R-AZ), John Warner (R-VA), John D. Dingell (D-MI), John M. McHugh (R-NY), and Brigadier General Wilma L. Vaught, USAF (Ret.).

Faces of the Fallen is a truly unique project:

  • An original portrait exhibition of the first 1,319 American service men and women to be killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, the first American war casualties of the 21st century
  • A pro-bono collaboration of over 200 American artists
  • A mosaic of individual art styles in a variety of visual media
  • The individual and collected faces of an ongoing conflict
  • An interactive installation visited by hundreds of thousands of family members, fellow military and the general public
  • A focus for collective tribute and grief
  • A learning moment for all ages and many disciplines – art, portraiture, education, history, social science, biography

Faces of the Fallen is also uniquely:

  • Appreciated for its own sake across a divided public
  • Honored for its comfort to the bereaved families and for the effectiveness of its design: 
  • CORE architecture + design was awarded the 2005 Washington Architectural Foundation’s Pro Bono Publico award for Faces of the Fallen
  • Faces of the Fallen received the 2006 Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Outstanding Public Service Award for “extraordinary support of America’s service members and their families”
  • Profiled extensively in print, broadcast, and electronic media – locally, regionally, nationally, internationally
  • Chaired by a wholly bipartisan panel of distinguished Members of Congress
  • Partnered with pro-bono exhibition venue, the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at the Gateway to Arlington National Cemetery
  • Supported by Marriott Hotels and United Airlines who helped defray the cost of families traveling to the opening ceremonies
  • Supported by UPS who are underwriting costs for packing and shipping all the portraits to the designated next-of-kin at the close of the exhibition
  • On view from March 23, 2005 through June 10, 2007

Faces of the Fallen also offers several compelling stories:

  • Of the family members who have been deeply affected by the experience of this tribute; and of their emotional connection through the exhibition with other grieving families
  • Of the service members who have expressed such gratitude for a venue in which to express their honor
  • Of founder Annette Polan and the personal genesis of the initiative
  • Of the contributing artists who put aside their personal politics to participate in this spontaneous cultural moment