Colorado State University student honors veterans with World War II dioramas

Zara DeGroot

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Andres Flores, a junior art major, poses with his work. [Photo credit: Christina Vessa]
Andres Flores, a junior art major, poses with his work. [Photo credit: Christina Vessa]
Standing in the basement of the Ward Building in Loveland with a pencil behind his ear, a smudged smock and a look of determination is his eye is Andres Flores, a junior art major at Colorado State University.

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Flores is putting the finishing touches on a diorama of German soldiers occupying a French building in 1941, a piece that he is building from scratch and has been working on since January 2014. This is Flores’ hobby: building large scale dioramas of war scenes from World War II.

“People like to see the world miniaturized,” Flores said. “In this way I have seen my deprivations of war easily bridge the generational gap between veterans and young people.”

Flores was hired by Frank Ward of Ward Construction in August of 2013 after a large fire had destroyed much of Ward’s WWII soldier collections the month before. Ward discovered Flores and his talent at the Larimer County Fair where the young artist was displaying his work. Since then, Flores has been reconstructing Ward’s war memorabilia what was ruined in the fire. He also builds original pieces of his own design and sells and trades them internationally, some dioramas selling for as much as $11,000.

A wall of miniatures in Flores' workplace. [Photo credit: Christina Vessa]
A wall of miniatures in Flores’ workplace. [Photo credit: Christina Vessa]
“He is putting back together what I had,” said Ward, a Loveland native and a Marine veteran. “Andres is a dynamic young person. Not only is he talented, but he is visionary.”

It is this unique vision and talent that has war memorabilia collectors around the world eyeing Flores and his work.

“Companies that I have bought from want to hire him,” Ward said.

Flores’ interest in history began during his childhood. As a home-schooled student, he had the time and flexibility to focus on topics that interested him.

“I started building these miniatures of these cities and scenes from the war when I was 13,” Flores said. “The first one I built was 4 feet by 4 feet.”

According to his father, Ruben Flores, an assistant undergraduate recruiter for the College of Agriculture at CSU, Flores began designing and building World War II dioramas after obtaining an interest in soldiers and war pilots.

“I am hoping Andres will use his artistic talent to create dioramas that will make people want to learn more about the soldiers who fought in World War II,” said Flores Sr. “Some of Andres’ pieces have moved people to tears and I’d like to see him continue to create small and large dioramas that will have an emotional impact on people.”

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Flores does not know yet what career path he will take.

“I am very interested in educational reform and being a part of the solution to our nation’s education problems” said Flores. “But I do love building and creating. A dream job would be working for Pixar.”

On Nov. 15, Flores hosted an exhibit of his work in honor of the Honor Flight Northern Colorado, an organization that provides funding to send veterans to Washington D.C. to visit war memorials. He continues to support this organization through his work.

Collegian Reporter Zara DeGroot can be reached at new@collegian.com or on Twitter @zaradegroot.