The “Souls Shot Portrait Project” has arrived at the Art and Innovation Center Gallery at Rowan College of South Jersey (RCSJ), and will remain open to the public until Feb. 27.
The project is a regional exhibit that showcases portraits of gun violence victims. Artists involved participate for free and are either randomly assigned the victim they portray or select them because of a personal connection.
“[Visitors] should expect to see fine-art portraits created by passionate artists who spent time with family members and friends of the victims to get to know who they were in life,” said Executive Director and Curator Laura Madeleine.
Madeleine emphasized the importance of the artists’ role when telling the stories of victims and their families.
“They did a lot of listening and a lot of looking and each used their own style, approach, and medium to do their best to convey who the person was, to memorialize them and humanize them,” she said.
“The resulting portraits are as diverse and unique as the people portrayed were in life.”
The Rowan exhibit, located at 321 High St. in Millville, includes artwork from associate photography professor Eoin Kinnarney. Kinnarney’s portrait represented 19-year-old Kevin Miller, who was shot and killed in 2011 after taking a friend out to dinner.
At the exhibit on Jan. 20, Miller’s mother, Carla Reyes-Miller, spoke about losing her son to gun violence. Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McCrae also made a statement.
“[Webb-McCrae] told me that she sees the exhibition as a blessing; portraits make the victims whole and, in a way, bring them back,” Madeleine said. “It is important to humanize people affected by this epidemic of gun violence.”
The “Souls Shot Portrait Project” was founded in 2016 with an exhibit that was to last one month. But six years later, the project has expanded, with two exhibitions in New Jersey and the Philadelphia area.
“The exhibition is, itself, a work of art that is all encompassing,” Madeleine noted. “It is an invitational, rather than confrontational, approach to bring viewers to a place of empathy.
“From there, true change can take place.”
The Art and Innovation Center gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Saturday noon to 5 p.m. The exhibit is free and no-cost parking is available.
For more information on the project and how to volunteer, visit soulsshotportraitproject.org.