Sputnik Magazine | Spring 2013

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Page 18 of 23

Worthy Endeavours Alberta's Other Oil Project Three artists, Susan Abma, Cindy Revell, and Shairl Honey, are painting 158 different 14"x18" portraits of each Canadian soldier killed in the Afghanistan war. We all have 'gifts'—special talents that make us, well, special. Most of us use those gifts for doing work that moves us along in a career. Often the moving along part isn't exactly in sync with our true passions or our core gifts. If most of us are honest, we all hit a point where we recognize that on some level we sold out. We traded something for something, and our talents are not being used for output that is... meaningful. It takes sacrifice, luck and circumstance to use our gifts in a way that brings meaning to our work. Not everyone gets the chance and most of us live with that. Like many Albertans, the three women shown here work in oil. However, their oil is different; they don't extract it, nor do they commute to far away camps to access it. They work in Edmonton, in a very clean room, awash with sunlight, within a Federal Armoury building. They are surrounded by portraits of Canadian soldiers that lost their lives in the Afghanistan war. These soldiers stare at them all day. The painters are not employees of the Department of National Defense and they earn no money from their efforts. Yet each day they come to work, sit at their easels, and produce fine art as a team. Thousands of strokes. Thousands of choices. Painting. The fallen. Each portrait takes between 30 and 40 hours to complete. Imagine looking at a person's face for that long. That's about a week of regular work hours, looking at a face. You've never met this person, and you never will. From cherished family photos, and sometimes through contact with next of kin, you construct a visual representation of that person. That's a pretty intimate endeavor. Project Heroes™ is an excellent example of creativity at work in the community. While the project's goal is national—to tour the final paintings to each major city in Canada and then install the portraits in a major museum or art gallery—its day-to-day functions mirror those of any contemporary business or department. Do the laptops work? Do we need supplies? Are we meeting our deadlines? But under all that, each painter has to ask themselves much deeper questions. Is my work true to this person? Does my work match the work of the group? On the surface it looks simple, underneath there is much complexity. As mentioned, the three artists are not paid or commissioned. Project Heroes™ is a non-profit enterprise. This is simply something that they felt needed to be done to show their appreciation and provide Canadians an opportunity to do the same. It is funded by the artists, other Canadians who donate and corporate sponsorship. It's a unique creative project that allows fallen soldiers to be seen, remembered and thanked for their sacrifice. It's a big project and it's looking for support. Learn more at www.projectheroes.ca or www.facebook.com/projectheroes.

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