This New York City artist is painting portraits of 200 South Brooklyn residents for free

January 11, 2023

All photos courtesy of The Free Portrait Project

A new artist residency will tell the story of South Brooklyn through paintings of its residents. The Free Portrait Project is inviting 200 Brooklynites to be the subject of oil portraits and share their oral histories with the project’s founder, artist Rusty Zimmerman. The project, part of a yearlong residency at Sunset Park’s Industry City, aims to “promote unity across boundaries” within the community.

In 2015, Zimmerman painted 200 free oil-painted portraits of Crown Heights residents, creating a physical record of the community in an increasingly digital age.

The project goes against the traditional norms of portrait painting, granting subjects from all walks of life and economic backgrounds a free painting in a type of art style historically reserved for wealthy individuals.

Over the course of 2023, Zimmerman will paint 200 oil portraits and collect oral histories from the Brooklynites portrayed. According to the project website, those who live within the boundaries of “Green-Wood Cemetery to the North, Coney Island to the South, Ocean Parkway to the East, and the water to the West” can apply to be painted.

There will be free, public receptions of the portraits and the stories of their subjects at 10 venues across this part of the borough. The receptions will be hosted after the completion of the 50th, 100th, and 150th portraits.

After the final exhibition that presents all 200 portraits within one room, the project participants will receive their free, 18 x 24″ oil painting of themselves.

The Free Portrait Project studio is located in Building 2, Second floor, Suite C249 in Industry City. Visitors are welcome, and the studio has an open-door policy four days a week.

“We can’t wait to join the Industry City community and to meet our neighbors in South Brooklyn,” Zimmerman, who now lives in Kensington, said.

Learn more about the project here. And see if you are eligible to be one of the project’s 200 participants here.


Images courtesy of The Free Portrait Project

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