The big day had arrived. Dozens of paintings, large canvases and other artsy décor had been lovingly crated, transported and carefully displayed in this impressive military building, the Prince of Wales Armoury in North-Central Edmonton, finally ready for their public reveal and the emotional acclaim of several hundred guests.
On Friday, November 7th, Project Heroes was launched. This large collection of artfully crafted portraits of Canadian Fallen Soldiers of the Afghan War was created by three Alberta artists; Cindy Revell, Susan Abma and Shairl Honey. These three started this art project six years ago and have now completed more than half of the 158 tributes, including portraits and bios. Finding the surviving families of these soldiers was a time-consuming task since the Military cannot disclose the soldiers’ family details. The research and correspondence as well as visits with the relatives was an all-consuming task. With profound heart and amazing talent, these three artists have so far accomplished an amazing and touching tribute to the Fallen, both in the Afghan conflict and of post-war challenges.
An emotional gathering of military personnel, Canadian young and old war veterans, fallen soldier’s families, kind-hearted sponsors, local and regional politicians and friends of the artists sat with anticipation within this grand old military building. They came to celebrate the Edmonton exhibit’s launch and its coast-to-coast journey starting in January 2015, and the well wishes shared at the microphone. MP for Edmonton Centre, Laurie Hawn, a retired Air Force pilot and officer was the congenial host, adding lighter comments to the emotional ceremony where Lieutenant-Governor the Honorable Don Ethel shared a message of admiration, support and of Project Heroes’ critical value to Canadian history.
Within the Armouries stately architecture, while still and handsome fallen soldiers’ portraits looked on smilingly from the mezzanine gallery, guests greeted each other warmly, united in this celebration of six years of passionate and undaunted focus and admirable talent. Among the guests, a group of lively ladies sat close together, displaying an obvious camaraderie and pride in one of the artists, Cindy Revell. These ladies were Members of the Leduc Art Club and were happy to celebrate this day with their art instructor, who shares her inspiring skills with art groups far and wide. Through the past two years of art instruction and shared love of painting, these ladies have developed a strong rapport with each other and their instructors. Ingrid Shields, the Club’s president, was happy that the Club members were invited to celebrate Cindy, Susan and Shairl’s exhibit launch.
Two brothers were introduced as Gold Leaf Sponsors of the Project; brothers Brian and Bill Middleton stood together at the podium, where Brian explained with quiet emotion how they heard of this Project and thought their support and involvement would honour their late father, Allan M. Middleton, born December 5, 1922, who passed away on March 6, 2013 at the age of 90. Allan spent four years overseas with Squadron 279 of the Canadian Royal Air Force. Mr. Middleton would say that, “The war years were his best years,” as he maintained a lifelong friendship with his unit’s comrades. It was emotional to listen to two brothers honouring their father’s selfless service and honourable life and staunchly supporting this tribute to Canadian veterans and soldiers.
During the ceremony, several children were entertained in the main office of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment by a member, Retired Colonel Charles Marshall, who proudly showed off the children’s drawings on the common theme of Remembrance Day. Kathleen Haggarty, the Loyal Edmonton Regiment Military Museum’s Artifacts Director, was a discreet and friendly host who encouraged some of the guests to come back soon to visit the Princes of Whales Armouries, rich in precious and interesting military displays and to revisit Project Heroes shared in Edmonton until December 31st.
As Project Heroes had promised, oversized paintings and montages told stories of all the fallen soldiers. One of these large canvases depicting crosses near a field of poppies had been created in three panels, one for each artist and completed in a temporary studio in Downtown Leduc, a generous loan by the owners, friends and loyal supporters, Del and Lynn Sveinsson. Welcoming guests in the lobby and bidding them adieu, a ten-foot manufactured tree emitted sweet bird songs while yellow ribbons among its colorful foliage swayed in a gentle breeze. The winds of time might help us forget many things, but WE SHALL NOT FORGET THEM, those who have selflessly given life, limb and peace of mind, so that Canadians can enjoy the rich freedoms our country promises. Well done, Project Heroes and safe travels across the Nation.
Pictured: Cindy Revell (L), Susan Abma (C) and Shairl Honey (R) pose with Major Sponsors Brian (L) and Bill Middleton (R). Photo by Dominique Vrolyk