CHESTNUT HILL - Philadelphia’s homicide rate is up 25 percent over last year. As city leaders and top police brass search for ways to curb the escalating and seemingly endless gun violence, a local artist is advocating for action in a different way – with an exhibit that puts a face on the startling statistics and offers some solace to grieving families.
"We miss him so much," Lisa Harmon, whose son was murdered, expressed. "I was afraid, in the beginning, that it was the acceptance of him no longer being with us anymore."
But, now Harmon actually loves the portrait of her son, Alan.
"I embrace it. His smile is awesome," she remarked.
The 34-year-old was fatally shot in September of 2018, in Southwest Philadelphia. The artwork, one of 30 on display, is part of the "Souls Shot Portrait Project" at St. Martin-in-the-Fields Church in Chestnut Hill. It randomly pairs artists and families of gun violence to tell their loved one’s story before their lives were taken.
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"His family meant so much to him, so I asked Elisa, who did the portrait, if she could incorporate his family with him," Harmon explained.
The artist putting a picture of Alan’s four children over his heart, to show his love for them.
Artist Laura Madeleine started the traveling exhibition.
‘It’s a powerful way to connect people to what this epidemic of gun violence actually costs," Executive Director of Souls Shot Portrait Project Madeleine explained.
She never imagined they’d be at over 200 portraits, with 10 families on a waiting list.
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"I wish I wasn’t doing this. It is overwhelming to me what these families go through," Madeleine added.
Madeleine sadly created two separate pieces for Sonya Dixon of her grandsons. 22-year-old Kenyon Allford shot in a drive-by shooting as he tried to get children away from the gunfire. His 20-year-old brother, Zakiyy, killed a year earlier, in June of 2017.
"It allows me to remember all those special times, all the specialness with them, all the potential that they had," Sonya Dixon stated.