by Lucie Roy
One of the Baha’i Community of St. Albert’s International Women’s Day event speakers was Shairl Honey, one of the honourees and recipient of the award for Arts and Unsung Heroine.
Honey through her vision, dedication, and art is helping the nation to remember and honour the men and women who have selflessly served in our military.
It was not until Honey was in her mid-fifties that she had time to develop her artistic side and became an artistic adventurer who painted her way across Canada, the USA, and Europe.
Her paintings have found their way to collections throughout Canada, England and France and two of her early paintings were award winners.
One day Honey and fellow artist Susan Abma opened a magazine and saw a spread of 100 soldiers who had been killed in Afghanistan. Struck by the tragedy of losing so many young lives they felt inspired to honour the young men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice.
Shairl Honey, Susan Abma and Cindy Revell joined forces and created what would become Project Heroes.
Soldiers portraits were painted based on treasured family photos, their stories were written and online profiles filled with personal letters, photos and poetry were created to help Canadians make a personal connection with the fallen.
Wall-sized paintings were painted to remind Canadians of the visible and invisible wounds carried by returned soldiers and the corresponding difficulties families faced as they grieve their losses or accompany a loved one on the throes of PTSD.
The project also grew to illustrate Canada’s role in peacekeeping and global conflicts for the past 100 years.
Project heroes have a large number of volunteers, including other Alberta artists, interviewers, writers, French language translators, and editors, board members, sponsors, website technicians, an accountant, and even a lawyer.
General Rick Hillier has expressed his gratitude for the project and the military provided a large studio space for the artists.
The Project Heroes exhibition, that has created a tremendous legacy for all Canadians, will be on display in Peachland, BC next year in November around Remembrance Day.
Eventually, the three artists hope to find a permanent home for their work.
“My whole life has been a series of fantastic adventures and many blessings and tonight is one of them,” Honey said during her acceptance speech. “The three of us worked almost seven years preparing for our first exhibition. Thank goodness, Jean Leebody of St. Albert came out of retirement to be our exhibition manager. Her knowledge of travelling arts exhibitions across Canada and her expertise in art guided us to our first show in 2014. We opened in Edmonton at the Prince of Wales Armoury. Jean continues to work on our board and advise us. Dozens and dozens of volunteers, professionals, and sponsors have helped us over the last twelve years to be successful.”