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Westfield State Art Professor Unveils Portrait of Frederick Douglass at Mechanics Hall

Westfield State University Associate Art Professor Imo Nse Imeh in his studio with his new portrait of Frederick Douglass, which was unveiled at Mechanics Hall in Worcester on March 14.

WORCESTER — Mechanics Hall in Worcester unveiled three commissioned portraits of 19th- century Black Americans at an event called “Beyond Frames” on March 14, as part of its Portraits Project.

Westfield State University Associate Art Professor Imo Nse Imeh contributed with his portrait of formerly enslaved civil-rights leader, orator, and writer Frederick Douglass. Other contributions unveiled included Worcester business owners and abolitionists William Brown and Martha Ann Tulip Lewis Brown, painted by Brenda Zlamany of Brooklyn, N.Y., and formerly enslaved abolitionist and women’s-rights activist Sojourner Truth, painted by Manu Saluja of Long Island, N.Y. The three portraits are the first to be added to the 167-year-old concert hall since 1999.

The Mechanics Hall Portrait Gallery is an installation honoring 19th-century Worcester innovators, social reformers, Civil War heroes, and political leaders.

“This is a historic moment for Mechanics Hall and our vibrantly diverse community,” said Kathleen Gagne, Mechanics Hall executive director and co-chair of the Portraits Project. “Many of the world’s most renowned performers take the Great Hall stage every year. They and their audiences will now share the hall with — and be inspired by — these striking paintings of Black Americans who lived extraordinary lives of courage. Our community, and especially our children, can look up to the individuals honored in the gallery with pride and hope.”

Imeh is a visual artist and scholar of African diaspora art. His work focuses on historical and philosophical issues around the Black body and cultural identity. His works are in the collection of the Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art; the University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMass Amherst; and the Danny Simmons Collection of Art, among others. Imeh is a recipient of the Mass Cultural Artist Fellowship, as well as grants from the Holyoke and Springfield Cultural Council and the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.