Cliveden House partners with the Souls Shot Portrait Project to host an exhibition focused on the outcomes of gun violence, running through November

The historic Cliveden House has partnered with the Souls Shot Portrait Project to bridge history and contemporary societal issues. This partnership aims to shed light on the multifaceted implications of gun violence through an exhibition that will display the portraits of loved ones lost to gun violence. The exhibition will be hosted within Cliveden’s historic premises.

Executive Director of Souls Shot Portrait Project Laura Madeleine talks about the intended mission of the project, saying it “was intended to be a fine arts project that would inspire people to take action using the power of art to reach people in a different way than media, other media, statistics, et cetera. And yes, our goal is to have people interact with the portraits and come away changed enough that they want to stop this, stop the gun violence.”

The project invites artists to create portraits of gun violence victims by pairing them with family or friends of the victims. Artists learn about the victim’s life through conversations and mementos, reflecting diversity in styles and media. This approach aims to humanize the victims and address gun violence non-confrontationally.

The collaboration was initiated through Kimberly Kamara, a Germantown resident, who participated in one of Cliveden’s projects exploring the modern ramifications of the American Revolution’s Battle of Germantown. Tragically, In 2017, Kamara lost her son, Niam Kairi Johnson-Tate, to gun violence. Niam’s photo is one of many that hangs in the Souls exhibition.

Kamara talks about the feeling of seeing Niam memorialized: “It’s one of them things where I never get over it. Every time I walk into [exhibition] with Souls Shot and see his picture. It’s like me seeing it over again for the first time.”

Kimberly Kamara in front of her son, Niam Kairi Johnson-Tate’s, portrait. (GIH | Rasheed Ajamu)

Cliveden’s decision to host the Souls Shot Portrait Project’s exhibition underscores the importance of participating in the ongoing conversation surrounding the growing issue of gun violence. The exhibition serves as a poignant reminder of the lives lost and the need for proactive measures to address this escalating crisis.

Carolyn Wallace, Education Director at Cliveden House, emphasized the importance of having the exhibition at the historical site, saying, “Unfortunately, our city and our country is increasingly impacted by gun violence. And I think being a part of that conversation is important for the work that we do here.”

The Souls Shot Portrait Project, with its portraits and partnerships with institutions like Cliveden, continues to amplify its message and advocate for change. The impact of this project goes beyond the art on display; it catalyzes societal transformation.

Madeleine says quantifying the impact is challenging, but she receives daily messages from grateful family members whose voices continue to be heard or from individuals who’ve seen the exhibition and had meaningful realizations.

She also notes that the project has inspired some participants to take action. 

“[Many] of the mothers we have worked with have started foundations and really become activists as far as people that maybe haven’t been personally affected by gun violence but were affected by our work. Many of them have gotten very much involved in groups like Ceasefire PA and a lot of community action groups. One person I can think of changed the course of her house of worship to dedicate themselves to gun violence, awareness, and action. So again, I can’t give exact figures, but I do feel like the needle moves a little teeny bit. Art is powerful, and I think people are getting fed up.

Kamara says part of the reason she partook in this project was to help further needed discussions around gun violence for all ages. 

“A lot of times, even though crime is out of control in Philly, people don’t believe it until it happens to them,” Kamara said. “And my thing is, I don’t want other parents to go through what I’m going through. So I like to spread awareness and tell people to go in a children’s room, check their rooms, turn over the bed, audit, go in them sneaker boxes, everything. So it makes it more real when they can see my pain and how I miss him. And I don’t hide the fact that I miss my child. I don’t hide what he was into and how he tried to make that turn around. So, like I said, if it could deter one child, I’ve done a lot of work.”

Cliveden invites the local community and visitors to explore the exhibition, offering a thought-provoking journey through art and emotion. The exhibition will remain open until November 19, providing ample time for reflection.

Moreover, the project will be a central feature of Cliveden’s Revolutionary Germantown Festival, scheduled for Saturday, October 7, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This festival promises to be a day of historical exploration and reflection, culminating in a moment of remembrance honoring those lost to gun violence in 2023, highlighting the ongoing need for awareness and action.

Kamara further urged, “I encourage people to visit this [exhibition]. It is an opportunity to remember those we’ve lost and to inspire collective action against gun violence.”