"Living Art" portrait workshop goes virtual

A scene from the portrait workshop taken in Summer 2018. Leslie MacWeeney photo

Dorchester-based art education nonprofit Living Art will conduct its annual summer workshop “Portraits, People & Places: A New Understanding” in a partial, online format this month starting on July 7.

Living Art has taught the workshop for over 20 years, inviting police officers, firefighters, EMTs and healthcare workers to pose for life-size portraits and bond with students. This year, it will be adapted to a Zoom video format, with roughly a dozen teens from Dorchester and Roxbury receiving Chromebooks and art supply kits to create the portraits from home.

Executive director Leslie MacWeeney called the project “even more relevant today than at its inception” in light of the resurgent Black Lives Matter movement.

“Many of our students are personally affected by violence in their neighborhoods,” she explained. “The pervasiveness of this trauma has become even clearer in the ongoing resurgence of social movements such as Black Lives Matter. Our art program is incredibly relevant and necessary. It initiates conversation between public servants and their communities, promoting peace and encouraging understanding and social change. Art is a transformative tool, and young people need this creative outlet to express their complex emotions around important social issues.”

The seven week program will conclude with a final exhibition to be held in an outdoor space, following social distancing guidelines. Donations to help purchase art supply kits are welcome at Living Art’s GoFundMe page.