“Seniors x Seniors” portraits at Hill Center


The show currently on display in the Young Artists Gallery is the fruit of collaboration between Maury ES artists and Capitol Hill Village*.

The project was developed by CHV Executive Director, Molly Singer, and Maury art teacher, Lauren Bomba. Singer was planning an intergenerational festival, GenFest, to be held at Hill Center and approached Ms. Bomba about creating something unique to enliven the atmosphere. Never one to be content with mere decoration, Bomba suggested a series of “mirror portraits” of the Villagers, to be created by fifth graders – the Seniors – at Maury. A mirror portrait is created when a photograph of a subject’s face is cut in half and left for the artist to complete with pen and ink. Students and Villagers both practiced the technique, focusing on symmetry, balance, contour line, and value.

Any serious student of art knows that the measure of a great portrait is insight into the character of its subject. So the artists needed to develop a rapport with the individuals who would sit for them. They invited the Villagers to visit them in their studio for shared art activities, games and interviews, a session designed by Ms. Bomba “to give Villagers and students an authentic way to connect in a deep and meaningful way with someone from a different generation.” It worked. According to Lira, “It was really fun getting to know my person.” Her classmates agree. Alena “really liked my senior (but she looked really young)… her mother gave her a trip to Africa as a graduation present!” Camille was impressed with the paper flowers her Villager made as a backdrop to his portrait. She also appreciated the mirror-portrait technique, noting that “it was much easier than doing a regular drawing, especially the nose and teeth.”

The relationships that developed were meaningful to the Villagers as well as the kids.

“I was attracted to the project because it was a very special opportunity for a senior to be involved in the community in a fun way. The kids were delightful, the challenges of portraiture were daunting and the entire experience was a delight.” –Rosemary Freeman

“I really enjoyed the interaction with the youngsters. I was able to share some of my experiences with the children and we got to know each other. I’m looking forward to the gala and seeing the kids again.” –Stanice Anderson

With the preliminary work complete, the students began work on the final versions in pencil and ink on watercolor paper, incorporating images of objects with special meaning to the sitter: a cross for a particularly devout Villager; a caped super-hero for another who wishes she could fly.

In turn, several of the Villagers elected to create portraits of the students. Many of these are also on view in the gallery.

Hill Center is located at 921 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. The Young Artists Gallery is on the ground floor, east of the main staircase. The show will hang through the end of February. Ms. Bomba invites everyone to see it and witness a “partnership, both personal and artistic, between old and young right here in our own neighborhood… These works of art are perfect evidence for what results when love and meaning is infused into learning.”

*Capitol Hill Village describes itself as “a neighborhood nonprofit organization that aims to sustain and enrich the community of Capitol Hill residents for the long term.”