Walking into the Opening Gala for The Faces of Cleveland exhibit at Victor Bracero’s Hair Studio in Cleveland called to mind the imaginative style, taste, and ambience of famous artists debuting portraits at a metropolitan art center.
This came as no surprise to those in attendance since The Faces of Cleveland exhibit, is in fact, the inspiration of two local artists whose goal was to use their time and talent to honor some of Cleveland’s lesser known, but equally important citizens.
In doing so, photographer Sara Renee and stylist Victor Bracero created a project that can actually engage and educate the community.
Renee’s photography not only captured an intangible essence of positive people making a difference, but it heightened awareness of unselfish volunteers, formerly unnoticed, and tweaked the way they are perceived — giving Renee and Bracero exactly what they wanted — a change in perception, a transformation of consciousness and a closer look at how people are responding to others who are making a difference in the world.
With their artistic aspiration on display for all to see, their collaborative work seemed to alter the atmosphere in the room, giving validation and a touch of class to several inconspicuous people selected to represent the Faces of Cleveland.
The nonprofit project that allowed Renee and Bracero to host the special inaugural occasion on Aug. 10 featured a stunning display of the completed portraits with hors d’oeuvres and drinks available for the guests.
Describing what the exhibit means to him, Bracero said, “To me it reflects the success of this town. Cleveland is still growing. It’s becoming more diversified, more cultured. It means success in my business, success in my friendship with people, success with people helping other people in this town.
“To see something like this come together in such a short time with so many different people from so many different places — they’ve all come together right here. That makes me feel successful that we brought this together and we hope to bring even more people in. It all add up to success.”
Jimmy Harper, the campus pastor and member of the faculty at Lee University, said, “It’s an honor to be chosen for The Faces of Cleveland. This is a town of close to 100,000 when you get out into the vicinity. So it’s a real honor to be chosen to be one of the faces among 100,000 people or so. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of this process.”
Jennifer Pennell, owner of Razzberry’Z Gift Shop in Cleveland, said, “We’re such a tight-knit community. It’s very important for people to know us and see our faces. This has been a privilege.”
Freelance writer Tony A. Eubank, another subject selected for the Faces of Cleveland exhibit, expressed his feelings about the community, stating, “I came here to Cleveland from Indiana and went to Lee University to start a new life. I like it here. I like that I can walk around at night and still be safe. I really appreciate that.”
Kevin Brown, an English professor at Lee University, was also chosen as one of the Faces of Cleveland. Brown said, “It’s very flattering and I’m very honored to be a part of this. I love Sara Renee’s work! It’s been great to see her after graduation. It’s great having been in Cleveland for 13 years — to feel like I’m a part of this community. It’s nice especially with Lee, because that’s what we try to be — involved in the community, and not ... separate from it.”
Renee described the event as a “rewarding experience” to be able to see her artistic vision come to life and have so many people show up for the Sunday evening event.
“I’m so honored. I think it’s awesome that all of these people showed up for our exhibit,” Renee said. “This is a positive, feel-good social event for people to mingle, discuss art, meet the other Faces of Cleveland and celebrate their contributions to the community. I feel grateful to be a part of this.”
In an earlier interview about the exhibit, Mayor Tom Rowland, also picked for the Faces of Cleveland project, said, “I think it’s a great idea because this community is made up of so many people — such a diversity of population, who make good things happen. I’m honored to be a part of it. In looking at some of the folks who’ve been selected, I can see that these are people who, in so many areas in our community, make a difference every day in somebody’s life.”
If art is not always about what you see but what you can get others to see, Renee and Bracero are succeeding in getting others to witness unassuming individuals working behind the scenes to make a difference, only to take center stage for once in the artistic expressions featured in The Faces of Cleveland exhibit.
Renee said the exhibit will be available for display at various venues in Cleveland for one month at a time, based on a first come, first-served basis. After the exhibit leaves Victor Bracero’s Hair Studio on North Ocoee Street it will be featured at Razzberry’Z Gift shop in downtown Cleveland. Any organization, business or venue can request to present the exhibit at their location by contacting Renee or Bracero.
The Faces of Cleveland project started on April 28, with Bracero styling the hair and Renee doing the photography. Renee, owner of The Adventures and Photographs of Sara Renee, said they are still considering having a public photo shoot where people will be able to come in to be styled and photographed. It will be similar to Faces of Cleveland, but for just one afternoon — an all-day event — and by appointment.
For further information about featuring the Faces of Cleveland exhibit in your area or venue, contact Victor Bracero, Hair Studio at 790-5600 or visit Sara Renee at sararenee.com.