“When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
That’s what people say. Those soldiers, firefighters, cops, and paramedics are the new knights. The first defense. The first responders.
They’ve seen a lot. And though sometimes what they see makes fire-breathing dragons seem tame, they soldier on. Seemingly unscathed.
Barbara Brown knows the truth of it. The Barrie, Ontario woman’s husband was a war crimes investigator and she came up with the idea of ‘The Steel Spirit’ while he was deployed for a year. It’s an art exhibit consisting entirely of works by those brave men and women whose very jobs is to get in harm’s way to protect others.
Shortly before he went overseas, Brown had read an article about Prince Harry's upcoming Invictus Games the following year in Toronto.
“Inspired by the Games idea, Barbara felt there may be additional ways to promote recognition of the Canadians that serve our country,” The Steel Spirit website says. “With her love of art and personal family situation she started initially to find out if there would be any persons in the military interested in creating their own artwork (with or without an art background).”
Jaime Lightle, of Round Hill Studio in Annapolis Royal, is helping Brown bring her ‘Steel Spirit’ idea to Nova Scotia and the two are looking for help.
“Jaime and I are working together to organize a military and first responder art gallery that will be coming to Annapolis Royal in June,” Brown said. They are looking for art from serving or retired soldiers or first responders – including dispatchers.
“I've organized the ‘Steel Spirit’ galleries in Barrie for a couple years now,” she said. “The gallery ended up becoming a massive success for the local community and now has become an annual event. In one year the gallery doubled in gallery space and more than doubled in artists involved.”
“Of course this event is really close to my heart as my husband James C E Lightle was a combat engineer in the military and after receiving treatment for PTSD he found art to be the best outlet for his trauma,” said Lightle.
Brown’s husband served in both military and police international operations and her father was an RCAF pilot. She wanted to create a gallery that was about the many selfless stories of service by current serving Canadians and veterans. She said there are not enough civilians who know about the sacrifices made on their behalf.
Brown said the gallery is free and aims to provide recognition and thanks to individuals who serve their community and country.
“We are looking for a wide range of art submissions -- leather work, woodwork, photography, metalwork, paintings, drawings etc.,” she said.
Last year ‘Steel Spirit’ had a poetry submission from a Second World War veteran.
“Fred wrote a poem about the war that follows each of his geographical stops along the six years while he was fighting on the ground,” said Brown. “Fred's poem will be on display in the upcoming gallery in June as he is from the east coast.”
She said Fred is 97 years old and still writes poetry daily.
“At Round Hill Studio, we are truly honoured to be hosting this art event that encourages and brings exposure to visual expression by non-traditional artists, especially the military and first responders,” said Lightle. “By giving a voice to these artists and a way for them to share their experiences and a bit themselves with the community through ‘Steel Spirit Art Gallery,’ we hope to encourage more creative expression with this population.”
Those interested in contributing art to this exhibition can contact Barbara Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org