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School Remembrance Projects« Projects
Lest We Forget - Sullivan Heights Secondary
Local organizations partnered with Sullivan Heights Secondary to create a stunning 3.32 x 9.5m mural for Heritage Square in Surrey, British Columbia. The project executive committee included: Marc Pelech (Sullivan Heights Secondary), Jim King (Surrey Crime Prevention Society), Bev Sommer (Surrey Museum & Archives) and the Cloverdale Legion No. 6. The sponsors were: City of Surrey, General Paint Ltd., Human Resources Skills Development Canada, Sullivan Heights Secondary School, Surrey Crime Prevention Society and The Surrey Foundation.
"Lest We Forget," is a photo-realist montage of WWII land, air and sea elements, designed by art teacher, Marc Pelech and his students, Carmen Bright, Nick Castoro and Taryn Sudul. The mural's eclectic mix of vivid hues, sepia-tone and shades of gray - a visual metaphor for the fleeting nature of war memories - is particularly well suited to a museum site installation.
The middle area of the "Lest We Forget" - perfectly aligned to a nearby granite cenotaph - depicts the wheelchair-bound Surrey War veteran Bill Larson accompanied by two air cadets in observance of Remembrance Day. Other important details are the veteran's 60th Anniversary Wreath, Maple Leaf, Canadian flag and Mosquito fighter-bombers. The avant-garde work juxtaposes a contemporary-era individual (Bill Larson) with that of his time-bound comrades-in-arms - a poignant reminder of veterans' present-day vulnerability brought on by advanced age; as well as an appeal for Canadians to honour their social contract with veterans. Bill Larson's seated placement, also resolves the technical problem of blocking the Maple Leaf - a detail essential to the patriotic character of the work.
In contrast to the full-coloured center area, the ruined sepia-toned building (left area) is typical of war-devastated Caen. The gray-toned group of four soldiers is part of the Edmonton Regiment that was street fighting in San Leonardo di Ortona, 1943 (Whitcombe/DND/National Archives of Canada/PA114487). The Canadian armoured tank is modeled from one that was used in skirmishes in Regalbuto, Sicily. The naval scene (lower right area) is comprised of a rough weather beach landing at Bernieres-sur-Mer (Milne/DND/National Archives of Canada/PA116533). The Canadian battalion contingent includes the 9th Brigade, North Nova Scotia Highlanders, Highland Light Infantry, the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry Highlanders and the Sherbrooke Fusiliers. The three members of the Women's Army Corps (top right area) are sourced from a Surrey Museum & Archives photograph. A final element is the ethereal crosses that form the sky - a sublime allusion to European cemeteries that contain Canadian war dead laid out in neat rows.
The mural painting team was co-led by Sullivan Heights Secondary Grade 12 students Rebecca Mumford and Taryn Sudul, and also included their school peers, Carmen Bright, Sara Caissie, Jennifer Griffiths and Whitney Stevens; as well as North Surrey Secondary Grade 11 student, Emily Nguyen. Coincidentally, one of the student artists, Jennifer Griffiths, has been a cadet for nearly two years. Additionally, all the muralists have living or late veteran relatives.
The high school students were hired for the seven-week summer project based on their proven artistic skills, although none had prior mural painting experience or a history of artistic collaboration. Each of the students proved to be physically resilient, surmounting sweltering heat and blinding light reflecting off the south-facing wall. This stellar commitment translated into the creation of a work comparable to highest standards set by earlier Spirit of Youth Mural projects (dating back to 1996) - a major achievement given the overall complexity of the war memorial design.
"Lest We Forget" continues a long-standing tradition for creating upwards of 55 community murals through the Spirit of Youth Mural Project (with installations in Delta, Langley, Ottawa & Surrey). Over 100 high school and post-secondary students have participated in the annual summer projects. Apart from city beautification, the murals have helped to reduce graffiti vandalism on prominent public buildings and private businesses. The complete mural collection can be viewed on the Youth Visions web site.
Written by Marc Pelech