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Somerville artist’s portraits on display at City Hall

Posted by  April 8, 2014 11:22 AM

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Courtesy of Nancy Hall Brooks

Jim’s fixed gaze looks out from a wall on the first floor of Somerville City Hall, captured eloquently in a hand-drawn pastel portrait.

Jim, along with eight other members of Somerville’s various senior centers, is featured in an exhibition by local artist Nancy Hall Brooks. The exhibition was funded by the Somerville Arts Council as part of a program to support artists and their involvement in the community.

The project, titled “Reflections: Portraits of seniors in images and words,” is made up of nine pastel portraits, each with short bios and anecdotes next to each of the nine works.

“He said he was a child of the sixties,” Hall Brooks said of Jim, a Somerville resident and veteran of the Korean War. “He talked about how he used to get drunk and stoned all the time.”

The last line of Jim’s bio reads: “Thank God, never had an addictive personality.”

The idea to feature senior citizens came from grant recipient Hall Brooks, who said each drawing took about 15 hours to complete.

“I wanted to honor some people in the community who don’t have much interface with arts,” said Hall Brooks, a Somerville resident. “Part of the Somerville Art Council’s mission is to create liaisoning between artists and the rest of the city.”

Hall Brooks, originally from Chicago, studied history at Washington University in St. Louis before earning a master’s degree in drawing at the University of Arizona. She and her husband first came to Somerville in 1971, then moved around Massachusetts until settling back in the city in 1994. Her efforts in this exhibition are part of an involvement in the city’s thriving art scene that dates back to the 1980s.

Hall Brooks said the portraits were met with positive reaction, despite a few remarks that the drawings made them look too old.

The Council on Aging, which runs the city’s senior centers, invited the artist back to teach various art activities.

“Hopefully, it will be a nice alternative to afternoon bingo,” Hall Brooks said.

The exhibition will be on display on the first floor of City Hall until Apr. 21.

This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.

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