Portraits from a Place of Grace

New public art installation is a testament of resiliency

Friday, March 01, 2019

​The public is invited to attend the unveiling and dedication of the new public art installation, "Portraits from a Place of Grace" by Richard Hollant, on Saturday, March 16, 2019 at 11 a.m., at the future home of the 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 (AACCVB), 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 and can be viewed online at www.portraitsofgrace.us beginning March 16.

"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, and 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, Richard Hollant, and AACCVB 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," Ross-Hammond said. "The portraits reflect the dignity, resiliency and hopes of several generations."

All of the portraits and video interviews will be available online at www.portraitsofgrace.us starting March 16.

"'Portraits from a Place of Grace' captures the essence of a timeless story," Hollant said. "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."

Richard Hollant is the creative director at co:lab, a firm focused on initiatives that encourage community engagement. Hollant studied philosophy and psychology at Boston University and film/video direction at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, 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.

Hollant's images have been displayed in 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.

The role of the Office of Cultural Affairs is to develop the vision and direction of the cultural arts in Virginia Beach, assist and direct the Virginia Beach Arts and Humanities Commission, coordinate the city's Public Art Program, provide contract management for the Sandler Center for the Performing Arts, serve as the liaison with Virginia MOCA and the ViBe Creative District, and serve as a resource to local arts and humanities organizations.

The mission of the African American Cultural Center, Inc. is to collect, preserve, interpret and celebrate Virginia Beach and Princess Anne County's African American history, culture and community from the mid 1600s to the present, and to inform and educate the public about African Americans' achievements in business, politics, religion, civic organizations and the Arts, and include regional African American History.

Edna Hawkins Hendrix shares information about one of the historic African American neighborhoods with artist Rich Hollant


Three of the photographs from "Portraits from a Place of Grace" by Richard Hollant. Left to Right: Harry Kirkley, Mary Dotson and Erving Hoggany Jr.

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