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Creator of collaborative art project for Vietnam veterans dies weeks before release

Artist Steve Maloney.jpeg
Steve Maloney take me home huey.png
Posted at 5:08 PM, Mar 01, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-02 15:06:08-05

A project nearly a decade old and aimed at honoring Vietnam veterans is about to be complete, but without the mastermind behind it all.

Years ago, a Rancho Santa Fe artist named Steve Maloney recruited multiple friends to help him create an artistic four-part project.

“He wanted to honor the Vietnam veterans by transforming a Huey helicopter that actually served in Vietnam into a piece of art,” said Nicole Teusch-Butcher, director of operations for Art by Maloney.

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Maloney, who served in the National Guard, started by painting an old Vietnam-era helicopter. Through the years, they've rolled out different phases of the project. He asked a friend named Jeanie Cunningham to help him write a song to accompany the art. Then, they produced a film about the project. That movie was made by Alicia Brauns and Christine Steele and has won multiple awards.

The final step was publishing a book about the whole experience, which is set to be released March 29, 2021.

Maloney will not see that day, though. The mastermind behind the project died about one month before the book’s release.

“We don’t quite have our sea legs on this yet, but we’re trying. If you knew Steve you would love him too because he was a really great guy,” said musician Jeanie Cunningham.

Teusch-Butcher said the plan from the beginning was to donate the profits from the book to veteran-centered organizations, and she said they will move forward with the release and donations as planned, even though their leader is no longer alive.

“The timing is never right for someone to pass away obviously but the book should be out there, veterans should see it, and it’s for them. That is Steve’s legacy to give back,” said Teusch-Butcher.

The 216-page book features information about the Vietnam War, Steve and the history of their project. After the helicopter was completed, they drove it around the country for veterans to visit, hoping to help heal any PTSD issues they might have.

"This is such an important piece to have just to get that connection going, to bridge to healing. Art is powerful, art is healing and that was Steve's message,” said Teusch-Butcher.

To buy the book or watch the film, visit The Huey is now on display at the Palm Springs Air Museum.