The Roseland Portrait Project

 Erin and Lorenzo Pugh from the Galesburg Portrait Project... soon to be replaced by members of the Roseland Community.

Erin and Lorenzo Pugh from the Galesburg Portrait Project... soon to be replaced by members of the Roseland Community.

"To value one another is our greatest safety, and to indulge in fear and contempt our gravest error." —Marilynne Robinson


A Tragedy

16 year old Andre Taylor was an active member of the Roseland Christian Ministries. On March 13, 2016, he was gunned down. 

The Community Responds

As a way to honor Andre and to foster stronger bonds across the Roseland community, Roseland Christian Ministries settled on an art installation that will feature portraits of several hundred people from the entire Roseland community. Painted on approximately 250 plywood boxes, the Roseland Portrait Project will travel to different organizations across the community. Some of the paintings will be reproduced as banners that will line Michigan Avenue in the neighborhood of the church. 

Why paint these portraits? 500 years ago, only kings had their portraits painted as a way of asserting their significance. The time and energy is takes to paint a portrait by hand is a way of paying concentrated attention to a single person. It is a way of valuing ordinary people for who they are, not what they achieve or the money they make. As a painter, I think of it as a performance of the person's intrinsic value as a human being without regard to status; in fact, the time required to paint an alderman (or king) or his indigent constituent is exactly the same. Further, because paintings are meant to last 100 years, these portraits challenge a culture full of instant, disposable images that tempt society to think that persons might also disposable.

Why so many portraits? Individuals acquire identities though the networks they inhabit. Consequently, representing a community means representing entire networks which constitute neighborhood organizations, schools, congregations, etc. It's a collaboration between me as the artist and the hundreds of people who will email me photos or allow me or other community members to photograph them. It is my goal to include as many different kinds of people from the community as possible: parents, children, grandparents, roofers, tradesmen, doctors, aldermen, pastors, retail workers, students and teachers, people living in nursing homes. In short, people who are like you and as well as people who aren't. The project needs to have enough of the networks that comprise Roseland so that people viewing the final project will respond, "Yes, this is my Roseland."

The Roseland Portrait Project began as a proposal to the Roseland Christian Ministries' pastor, director, and board of trustees by the executors of the Seerveld Arts in Society fund as a way to encourage the entire Roseland community. Dr. Calvin Seerveld —one of Trinity’s four founding faculty— and his wife, Inès, provided this fund as a “lasting legacy” to be initiated while they are still living. The fund is administered by Trinity Christian College, chosen by the Seervelds because of its vision that God uses human activity to extend and restore the creation. In their bequest to Trinity, the Seervelds encourage artistic projects that “highlight the Reformational vision Trinity stands for in the matter of artistry … [that] should be a winsome witness to our Lord’s rule for Trinity’s Chicagoland neighbors.” The fund models a generous approach Christian organizations can take in relationship to their own neighborhoods. 

Inspired by this vision, Roseland Christian Ministries and the SAiS executors selected me because the work I've done for the past two decades seeks to reflect and dignify each institution, neighborhood or community that the work portrays. In establishing the SAiS Fund, the Seervelds seek to “further a consciousness of art’s vital place in the normal Christian life and the imaginative service artistry can provide in society.” The Roseland Portrait Project will carry this goal forward in ways that honor the larger Roseland community. 

If you wish to contribute to the Seerveld Art in Society Fund, contact the Development Office at Trinity Christian College. 

It all starts in the shop. 1500 pieces of Baltic Birch plywood cut, assembled, sanded, varnished and primed ready for paint.