Heritage Helmet Art Project Honours Queen’s York Rangers
Patrick Connors – Aurora: On May 9, the second annual Lieutenant Governor Simcoe’s Levee in Honour of Our Rangers took place at the beautifully restored Church Street School in Aurora.
The evening began with His Honour The Honourable David Charles Onley, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, greeting attendees.
“I am Colonel of the Regiment, which is named after John Graves Simcoe, commander of the Rangers, and the first Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.
“This takes us to the root of who we are as a people. A lot of where we are now goes back to those days. Simcoe was responsible for the abolition of slavery about 35 years before the rest of the British Empire. Also, the Rangers built Yonge and Dundas Streets.
“After I leave office, all subsequent Lieutenant Governor’s will be Colonel of the Regiment. The citizen soldier is a mainstay of our Armed Forces. I salute the Queen’s York Rangers for their ongoing service to Canada.”
One of the features of this event is the silent auction of military helmets re-created as works of art, dubbed the Heritage Helmet Art project. By purchasing a ticket, a sponsorship, or donating to the silent auction, participants support the men and women of the Queen’s York Rangers who make great sacrifices on behalf of all Canadians.
“This project adds a unique perspective to how we honour the women and men of the Queen’s York Rangers,” said Aurora Councillor Chris Ballard, chair of the event. “I’m thankful these artists have honoured us with their time and talent and special insight.”
“I was involved in setting up the silent auction last year,” Catherine Marshall said. “At the levee, there were golf packages, food baskets, adventure packages put on by QYR, etc. This year the QYR asked me to organize this project, where I asked 9 artists to make original art on 1942 helmets, under the theme of honouring the Rangers, the oldest regiment in Canada.
“These helmets will be on display at Aurora Cultural Centre until May 26, and then move to the public opening of the new QYR armoury on May 27. They will be sold on auction on e-bay from May 16-26. The link can be found closer to the date on the http://www.simcoeslevee.ca/ page.
“It uplifts my belief that people really want to think deeply about what has been given to us in our country, how they do it with an attitude of gratitude, and that there is an incredible amount of talent out there. It has been a learning journey about troops and history of which I knew nothing about before. Also, to be able to bring some of my own skills to the project was great! I will be designing a commemorative poster, on sale to the public at the armoury opening.”
Internally driven and emotionally charged, Steve’s combined passion for art and ice hockey can be seen on professional goalies including: Tim Thomas (Boston Bruins); Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles Kings); Martin Biron (New York Rangers); Cam Ward (Carolina Hurricanes); and Chris Mason (Winnipeg Jets)
“Honoured to have been chosen to participate in the HHArt project in support of the Queens York Rangers. It gave me the opportunity to pay homage to the regiment, my late father (a WWII veteran) and all the brave men and women who selflessly sacrificed their lives for my freedom.”
The majority of proceeds from the Levee underwrite the newly established Regimental Assistance Plan, which is like an Employee Assistance Plan tailored to the needs of citizen-soldiers. The Queen’s York Rangers are the only Reserve Regiment in Canada providing such support. Funds also buy care packages for troops on active duty and enhance the regimental family by providing dress uniform and supporting the pipes and drum band. They are also used to help preserve the Regiment’s historic archives and artefacts.
“While over the years the younger cadet unit has been very visible and involved in the community, about 5 years ago the CO, Andrew Zudunich, and myself made a conscious decision to try to raise the Regiment’s profile. So, the CO and the troops were invited to participate in more parades and events – and many newcomers to Aurora started to recognize that the QYR were a big part of our community’s history, our present day and our future.
“Hosting the Simcoe Levee has been just a wonderful way for everyone to show our respect for the Regiment and to recognize their contributions. It is one opportunity to offer something back to our troops and it’s been a privilege to work with the committee who are all driven by the same goal – to honour our troops.
“And while some businesses have generously already stepped forward to help sponsor and support the event – including companies some distance from York Region, such as the Delta Meadowvale in Mississauga - we look forward to the Town of Aurora and even more businesses and individuals joining forces with us to support the event in the coming years.”
“I did this project to honour the memory of the Canadian military men who are my ancestors: my father, a reservist officer, and my maternal grandfather, along with my grandmother’s two brothers, who served as officers in the Great War,” artist Beth Peart Weekes said.
“Soldiers protect our families, communities and our countries,” said artist Herbert Pryke. “Casualty is inevitable, so I created a golden soldier angel with a spear and crest with the Queen’s York Ranger Crest on the shield protecting our Universe.”
“My family’s extensive military service has involved every generation, from the American Civil War to present day,” artist George Link said. “This family exposure greatly influenced my creative concept. Combined with the distinguished history of this regiment, I felt compelled to pay homage to the Queen’s York Rangers.
“The most meaningful part for me as a military daughter, wife, and mom, was the bowed helmet on the white gloves in the poppy field. Having been to military cemeteries throughout the USA and Europe, and attending the Military funerals of our fallen servicemen/women, those items evoke the most heartfelt memories. Thanks for showing that solemn part.”
“My helmet design combines two intrusive visual elements – the war poster and the soldiers’ cemetery”, said Michael Fromowitz, AOCA. “Both are power images, capable of touching the hearts and minds of people, and evoking a reaction.
“After the outset of World War I, the war poster became a significant means of communication. This instilled a sense of commitment and responsibility, appealing to the notion of national duty.
“As cultural artifacts today, the war poster ensures that the many Canadians who gave their lives in the international wars of the 20th Century, are never forgotten.
“Perhaps the most striking visual by which we remember our fallen heroes is the war cemetery – a reminder of the sacrifices of heroic men and women who gave their lives to make our country and the world a safer place.
“A G.K. Chesterton quote adorns the helmet: “The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him”.”
“The inspiration for this helmet art stems from events surrounding the war of 1812,” she said. “As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of this military event, it is important to remember all who helped win the fight and be reminded of the promises that were made for their help.
“I have lived in Aurora since 2002. Catherine approached me directly to be involved in this project. I was going to turn it down at first due to my First Nations and French background. However, First Nations warriors provided support without which the British would have lost. The First Nations and the British became allies to preserve their ways of life. They were fighting for what they believed in
“It’s always interesting to work with different materials. In this case, along with the helmet, I used leather, tar, bead work. It didn’t seem far-fetched. It was a light bulb moment, and a lot of fun.
“It was a challenge due to formulating the concept. My first try looked like too much was going on. My husband gave me his honest opinion to make me realize this. So, I ripped it apart, and started from scratch.
“I believe art has to be understandable, have esthetic quality, and be reflective of personal values.”
“This year’s Levee was the friendly, high-spirited event we were hoping for,” said Mike Beard, graphic designer for the event. “With all the planning and hustle running up to the evening, the event itself turns out to be a wonderful time for everyone. Despite the obvious importance and formality of a visit from the Lieutenant Governor, the event takes its’ cue from the man himself, understated and remarkably relaxed. The addition of the ‘reinactors’ with their wonderful 1780′s uniforms this year, the Rangers in their blues, plus the bagpipes and kilts – all added to the glitz and sparkle of the party. I really look forward to helping the Rangers next year!”
Indeed, it was a special evening, the kind that marks and brings a community together. Art is all about changing the way one looks at things, and what a marvellous achievement to turn army helmets into works of art. Look for bigger things in the future at the Simcoe Levee, and in lovely Aurora.