Author: Rebecca Kinkead
I began A Neighbor Project in August of 2019 when I found myself in rural Vermont, living alone for the first time in my life at age 51. I panicked. As an artist, it is not uncommon to go days without seeing another human being. The nature of solitude is rich fodder for creativity. My inner extrovert, however, was screaming. I needed people. I needed help. I was too anxious to go into my new studio. I wanted reassurance that I wasn’t, in fact, alone.
I invited friends, neighbors, volunteers to sit on my porch for a portrait session that would last under an hour. The response was overwhelming and reassuring indeed. Over the months of August and September, 2019 I painted 252 individuals. I installed the tiny portraits, each measuring 7” x 5”, in a continuous ribbon around my studio. The result is a single work of art measuring 7” x 1308”. Individuals were not identified. Stories were left up to the viewer’s imagination. I opened my studio to the public on October 19th and held a celebration for all of the volunteers that evening.
The project has continued under various iterations or ‘chapters’: A public preschool in Natick, Massachusetts, serving children with special needs; The Daystation at the Committee on Temporary Shelter in Burlington, Vermont, serving people experiencing homelessness; The Downtown Middlebury Chapter of the Committee on Temporary Shelter in Middlebury, Vermont, where portrait sessions took place inside different cafes and businesses.
This last chapter was in full-swing when COVID-19 showed up. Businesses shut their doors and we retreated into isolation.
On March 23rd, I began the FaceTime chapter of A Neighbor Project, inviting anyone around the world to sit for a thirty minute portrait session over FaceTime. I projected a map of the world on my studio wall measuring 12’ x 24’, traced it, and began painting volunteers over FaceTime on 7” x 5” panels. The portraits are then attached to the map wall (using Velcro) according to their location. I anticipate having 200+ portraits on the wall by May 1.
I have already painted folks in Australia; Kuala Lumpur; Luxembourg; Germany, and Unalaska, Alaska, among the places from and all over the United States.