Reports of gun violence appear in the media daily, and victims are often forgotten in a flood of new tragedies and cold statistics.
The Souls Shot Portrait Project attempts to memorialize these victims through art. The project connects artists with the families of victims to create intimate portraits of the lives that have been lost to guns. The conversations with family and friends, say the artists, are critical for them so that they can learn details about each victim and capture the essence of each tragic loss.
A selection of 31 of these portraits will be on display in the McNichol Art Gallery from February 2 through March 30.
Glenn Holmstrom, director of the McNichol Gallery, described the exhibit as a manifestation of Neumann’s RISES values in visual art. "The exhibition reflects reverence and our university’s commitment to social change for the greater good,” he said.
The project started in 2016 when Laura Madeleine, executive director of Souls Shot, worked with the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill to curate an anti-violence exhibition. The exhibit was originally scheduled to be on display for several weeks. Seven years later, it has expanded, and volunteer artists have created more than 100 portraits.
According to the portrait project’s website, the goal of the exhibit is to use “the transformative power of art to bring an end to gun violence … By exhibiting the artwork to the public, we invite the community to recognize what has been lost and to take action to end gun violence.”
The site also notes that “Portraits have the unique ability to call out the souls and profoundly affect those who see them. We hope that this project will continue to bring some joy and peace to the families and friends of victims and, by bringing attention to the scourge of gun violence in this way, be a call to action to all who see them.”
The exhibit is sponsored by the Neumann Institute for Franciscan Studies and the university’s Civic Engagement Committee in collaboration with the McNichol Art Gallery. The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, who founded the university, declared a corporate stand on behalf of gun safety reform in 2019.
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays and by appointment.