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Project Heroes: More Than a Soldier

Project Heroes first exhibition opened in Edmonton, Alberta on November 3 at the Prince of Wales Armouries Heritage Centre.

Project Heroes is a national traveling exhibition of portraits of Canadian fallen soldiers, their stories photos, letters, poetry and videos. The project was initiated in 2008 by artists Susan Abma, Shairl Honey and Cindy Revell who wanted to ensure Canadian heroes who fell in Afghanistan war were honoured in a significant and lasting way.

“We are delighted by the number of people who have already come out to see the exhibition. The opening reception gala has sold out at our capacity of 500 people,” said Cindy Revell, artist and co-founder of Project Heroes.

Among the displays are 80 portraits of soldiers. Written by volunteers, stories about each soldier hang beside each portrait. Three huge paintings and a fifteen-foot mural recognizing families, the wounded, serving soldiers, and veterans and a seven-foot tall manufactured maple tree, with 158 yellow ribbons representing each of the fallen soldiers are also part of the exhibition.

“We want everyone to know these heroes were musicians, fishermen, pet lovers, brothers, and sisters. We paint the portraits of the soldiers from photographs. We talk to the families to find out what the soldiers were like as people,” said Revell.

Soldier’s photos depicting the experiences they endured in Afghanistan were compiled and digitized to be shown on a flat screen television. The entire exhibition will eventually be digitized as a social and historical resource, so school children and Canadians who cannot see it in person can access the portraits and biographies of the soldiers.

“Our newly launched website allows the public to add to the biographies on-line. Teachers, friends, extended family members all have memories of these soldiers. They can add to the web piece and give us all a clearer picture of each soldier so they are never forgotten,” said Revell.

The families of the fallen are very involved in the process. The artists want the exhibition to leave the audience with a greater understanding of the real person behind the uniform and those affected by war. Because of privacy concerns the artists must wait for the fallen families to come to them.

Families provide personal photographs for the artists to paint from, and stories of their son, daughter or spouse helping the artists bring the portraits alive with spirit and personality. A free print of the original painting is given to the parents and spouse of each fallen soldier.

“We have 80 of 158 portraits painted, so there are a lot more out there. We encourage families of any of the fallen soldiers to contact us so that no soldier is left unrecognized,” said Revell.

Project Heroes is non-profit relying on corporate sponsors, grants and private donations to cover the costs of supplies, framing, free prints for families, digital media, crating, shipping and the numerous other expenses.

“The costs to produce an exhibition of this size are great and financial help is needed, and so appreciated,” said Revell.

The exhibit in Edmonton will remain until December 31, 2014 with the hope of extension. The next exhibit will be Government House, Regina Saskatchewan from April through June. The artists continue to arrange space and make arrangements to physically move the exhibition across the country.

Please visit the newly launched www.projectheroes.ca to add comments to the portrait pages of fallen soldiers or for future exhibition tour dates.

 

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Vicki L Morrison

Thanks to her husband's military career Vicki reinvented herself as a writer so she could work from home, while taking care of their three kids. A former MFRC executive director Vicki is a passionate advocate for military families who loves telling their stories.

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