Rigney PortraitsChristopher Rigney responded to the call for proposals for the Peekskill Project 6 put on by the Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (HVCCA) in Peekskill, NY. The guidelines were simple: a community based art project.

Having proposed a perfectly suited project months earlier on his blog the opportunity seemed a perfect fit. “I wanted to create art the truly involved the community, beyond just ‘checking things out’ one weekend during an opening”, he says about the proposal. The heart of the proposal was to democratize art and the portrait painting experience.

The Portrait of Peekskill project was accepted by the HVCCA rigorous selection committee who had to decide amongst the numerous local and international proposals.

For the next three months, October through December, the Westchester Community College generously hosted a portrait studio in their front windows. Portraits were painted without charge on a walk-in basis. The whole experience was open to anyone and everyone, breaking down the boundaries and assumptions that portrait painting and art in general is just for an elite few.

The portraits represent just a fraction of Peekskill’s diverse community and small portion of the people who actually participated in the Portrait of Peekskill project. Some people would walk by every day and watch the paintings develop through the window. Handfuls of people would stop by and ask questions about portraits and painting in general. Many of these people had never been to a museum, even with the HVCCA right in town.

Lawrence Flood, one of the local residences who sat for a portrait, commented: “It’s fun to recognize friends and local acquaintances in Chris’ portraits.”

The community embraced the unique opportunity to experience having their portrait painted. The president of the Peekskill Arts Alliance, Maureen Winzig, was an earlier champion of the Portrait of Peekskill project and had this to say: “The majority where passersby who have now been personally involved in and excited about the beauty of art in a whole new way. They witnessed the work and dedication it takes to create art up close and personally. It made them proud as well as invested in the arts in their community. Rigney’s finished Peekskill Project has both brought the arts to the community and the community to the arts. Bravo!”

The culmination of the Portrait of Peekskill project will be on display at the Flatz building, 1008 Main Street, Peekskill, from April 3 – April 27. The opening is set for April 3, 2-4pm.