Client: City of Virginia Beach
Location: Virginia Beach, VA, United States
Completion date: 2019
Artwork budget: $35,000
City of Virginia Beach
This public art installation was commissioned by the City of Virginia Beach Office of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the African American Cultural Center of Virginia Beach (AACCVB). Resting at the future home of the African American Cultural Center, 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 both physically and online. Artist, Richard Hollant, and AACCVB leaders reached out to the historic African American neighborhoods in Virginia Beach and a network of community leaders to identify a broad range of residents who would contribute to the visual tapestry and oral history depicting the Black experience in the city. Over 50 neighborhood residents were photographed, and stories captured over several months. The Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) recognized the impact of the installation with a Community Celebration in May 2019 where the participating community members in this project received their own prints of their portraits, as well as featured exhibit at MOCA.
Portraits from a Place of Grace captures the essence of a timeless story. 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.
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,” said Dr. Amelia Ross-Hammond, founder and chairman of the African American Cultural Center of Virginia Beach. “The portraits reflect the dignity, resiliency and hopes of several generations.”
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.