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THE FREE PORTRAIT PROJECT: CROWN HEIGHTS

The Free Portrait Project paints a portrait of a place through it’s people by giving oil-painted portraits to residents of Crown Heights for an entire year, creating a physical record of who we are now amid shifting demographics, documents our community, and quietly breaks the tradition of portraiture reserved only for a wealthy few by giving these paintings to people from all walks of life.

Starting in June 2015, over 200 residents of Crown Heights, Brooklyn will come to the studio of Rusty Zimmerman (portrait artist to Governor Andrew Cuomo) to sit for a portrait from life. Partnering with StoryCorps, conversations will be recorded that explore each individual’s relationship to the neighborhood, revealing a multi-faceted living history at a pivotal moment in time. Each oil-painted portrait will measure 18” x 24” and will represent all subjects on equal stature — state senators next to shelter residents, local merchants next to museum custodians. The project thus showcases commonality and fosters engagement to integrate the disparate cultural communities within Crown Heights. Furthermore, the project will benefit neighbors who may not otherwise have access to portraiture by granting them this painting at no cost, formerly a fancy thing for fancy people.

Exhibitions run through the year in over 10 venues and culminate in 200 portraits at the Brooklyn Museum in July, 2016, where the whole community will gather to celebrate each other and a newfound commonality.

Why We Think This is Awesome

Our city is constantly changing and we appreciate that this project acknowledges this and celebrates it in a unique way. We especially love the multi-stage approach to the distribution of these portraits - a public exhibition to share the stories of the portrait subjects, followed by the gifting of these portraits to the subjects themselves to allow them to bring the work back into their own homes and their own lives.

Funded by New York City, NY (September 2015)