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Portraits from a Place of Grace is a testament to resiliency

The unveiling and dedication of the new public art installation, "Portraits from a Place of Grace," by Richard Hollant, recently transpired at the future home of Virginia Beach's African American Cultural Center, on the corner of Newtown Road and Hampshire Way.

Commissioned by the city of Virginia Beach Office of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the African American Cultural Center of Virginia Beach, the immersive design celebrates Virginia Beach's historic, African American neighborhoods and their residents.

Through interviews, videography, photography and graphics, the aspirations of members of the community have been captured and are presented in this piece; the work can be viewed at www.portraitsofgrace.us.

"Richard Hollant's artistic rendering of our history, through these visual modes of storytelling, is worth a thousand words," said Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond, founder and chairman of the African American Cultural Center of Virginia Beach. "This is a must-see for all Virginians. The work of art will be a place of reflection; visitors will be inspired to stay a while, among the faces of community members and contemplate our shared spirit."

Through a network of community leaders, the artist, Hollant, and center leaders, reached out to the historic African American neighborhoods in Virginia Beach, to identify a broad range of residents who would contribute to the visual tapestry and oral history depicting the Black experience in the city.

With the hospitality of Ebenezer Baptist Church and New Hope Baptist Church, in Virginia Beach, neighborhood residents were photographed and video-recorded over several months.

"Hollant traveled through the community and got to know some of the people here; developing a rapport that would create familiarity and comfort when the time came to capture portraits," said Ross-Hammond. "The portraits reflect the dignity, resiliency and hopes of several generations."

Hollant is the creative director at Tennessee-based, co:lab, a firm focused on initiatives that encourage community engagement. He studied philosophy and psychology at Boston University and film/video direction at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He has received numerous awards, including top honors in international design competitions. His work on diversity is in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress.

"The exhibit captures the essence of a timeless story," said Hollant. "The hope is, to tell the stories of the past and 'the now' of the historic African American neighborhoods in Virginia Beach; and, to portray residents as they meet each other, stand together and imagine a new, bold future for generations to come."

Hollant's images have been displayed in various gallery exhibitions, including a traveling retrospective of the best of digital imaging from around the world. He has conducted numerous "photo booth" sessions, including a 2017 program at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Visit www.richardhollant.com for more information.

Story and photo courtesy of the city of Virginia Beach.

Local historian, Edna Hawkins Hendrix,

shares information about one of the historic

African American neighborhoods

with artist, Richard Hollant. (Courtesy photo.)


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