The Steel Spirit Gallery goes virtual


Zoe Côté
Borden Citizen Newspaper

The annual Steel Spirit Gallery, founded by Barbara Brown in 2017, showcases the unique artwork of military, police, firefighters, paramedics, hospital practitioners and other first responders.

Brown’s inspiration initially came from her own ties to the military and its unique lifestyle; however, she quickly noticed an interconnectedness between the emotional experiences of military members and first responders.

“Diverse backgrounds lead to diverse artwork,” said Brown. “It is one of the things that makes this project so special.”

For more information, visit Steel Spirit Galley is accepting artwork submissions by military and first responder services.

Featured Artist: Shawn McCowell

To get somewhere as the light fades one must negotiate the trip by sound and touch as much as by sight. The trick is to stay focused, remain calm, and keep paddling.

Beginning in March, Staff Sergeant (Retired) Shawn McCowell created a dozen paintings capturing the emotions Canadians are experiencing during COVID-19, from apprehension to anxiety to outright fear. He entitled it the Pandemic Collection.  In the Half-Light is one of the paintings from this series.

McCowell is a retired Peel Regional Police officer who uses art as a vehicle to rid himself of stress garnered from lived experience and in his role as a peer support consultant for first responders.

In addition, he is the founder of Police Artists of Peel, an organization that raises money and awareness for various charities. 

He is self-taught and began painting while attending university. His medium is acrylics, clay, and wood. He focuses mainly on police-themed work, family settings, landscapes of all types, and as an Irishman, he says he is “forever drawn to painting darkened trees in brooding forests.”

“As first responders we are often exposed to the harsher realities of life and the suffering of victims we are sworn to protect. Those experiences of critical incident stress, whether lived or learned vicariously from other First Responders, have for over 30 years been my duty to shoulder. I am fortunate however, that art has provided me with a creative outlet as well as a vehicle to transform the burden of carrying this responsibility to a most honorable and charitable end.”

To view more of his art check out his Instagram: art_of_shawn_mccowell or

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