Face to Face: Portraits of our Vibrant City 2020

Welcome to our 2020 collection of community portraits resulting from Face To Face: Portraits of Our Vibrant City

Face To Face: Portraits of Our Vibrant City uses the intimate process of portraiture to connect artists and community members who have different life experiences. Part portraiture and part biography, Face to Face uses the strengths, experiences, and passions of vibrant individuals in our community to inform masterfully created portraits. Strongly in tune with our mission to bridge diverse communities through the arts, this project fosters interpersonal relationships among the people of our city. It initiates dialogue about equity, value, and perception. Portraits are exhibited at the Bridge and then gifted from the artists to the community members.


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Ahmad Sheikh Abdulsalam & Miriam Tobias

Portrayed: Ahmad Sheikh Abdulsalam

My name is Ahmad and I am from Syria. I have three daughters and one son. I grew up in Aleppo, however, I moved to Damascus to continue working as a fashion designer for women and girls. I was living a good life with my small family, until the day the civil war started in Syria, everything changed and I had to leave the county I lived in for years. I lived in Egypt and worked as a fashion designer but as well as a costume designer. Three years later I moved to the USA for better education and health care for my children. I worked for Virginia industries for the blind, but now I don’t work there and decided to continue my studies at PVCC studying HVAC

Artist: Miriam Tobias

My name is Miriam. I graduated from Mary Baldwin College in 2003, where I majored in painting. I studied painting in Florence, Italy, where I apprenticed with an artist, Alfio Rapisardi. Since 2019 I have devoted my studio practice to acrylic pouring/ fluid art. I am drawn to this style of painting because of the endless experimentation it entails to get the perfect cellular formations, which often occur organically from different viscosities of paint and mixing various paint mediums and pigments. I have a series where I digitally combine my fluid art paintings with self portrait photography. It has been a way to cope with the pandemic. I enjoyed employing the same techniques to create a portrait of Ahmad.

Erin O’Hare & Luke Roberts

Portrayed: Erin O’Hare

Erin O’Hare is a freelance reporter who has spent much of her professional life crafting portraits. I view portraiture as the encapsulation and communication of the essence of a person, and when I met Erin I was struck by how closely her work resembled that ideal. Her stories offer the reader connection with a wide swath of fascinating people, be it local jazz legends whom you can sit down with as they reflect on their career, Aboriginal Australian abstract photographers, or secretive hot dog graffiti artists you can meet in the parking lot of a Chili’s. Though she’s covered everything from the local punk scene to the artist behind those progressive frankfurters wheatpaste around town, her favorite articles are those in which she shines light on people whose stories have been neglected or entirely erased. Erin is a luminous person. Lucky for us, she extends that luminosity outward, suffusing both her subjects and readers in the joy of shared connection. 

An art history major as an undergrad, Erin moved to Charlottesville in 2009 for graduate school. She has since worked as a magazine editor, a writing tutor, and, most recently, the culture reporter for C-VILLE Weekly. She has received seven Virginia Press Association Awards, including three first-place awards for feature story writing as well as first place in the arts feature writing category in the 2020 Association of Alternative Newsmedia awards. When she’s not writing, Erin knits, collects vinyls, and DJs at WTJU and other venues around town. Follow her on instagram at @erinaroo

Artist: Luke Roberts

A good portrait takes the essence of a person and magnifies it for the world to see. Being paired with Erin, someone who works similarly through writing, was wonderfully serendipitous. Erin has spent much of her career giving light to those whose stories have been neglected and it was a privilege to be able to illuminate her in that same way. In my portrait I wanted to evoke that central motif of light and illumination. I believe I captured that most effectively not through the stained glass style of mark making, or the literal lighting of the piece, but through the rendering of her joyful expression..

I am an emerging artist, born and raised here in Charlottesville, and a junior at Charlottesville High School. My work focuses on the concept of self and the intricacies of human perception that affect the way we view ourselves and others. I frequently experiment with different styles and methods of production, often crossing barriers and mixing mediums. You can view the rest of my work on instagram:

Eboni Bugg & Christy Baker

Portrayed: Eboni Bugg

Eboni Bugg (LCSW, RYT) has served the Charlottesville area for more than two decades as an educator, social worker, therapist, and advocate. In recent years her work has evolved to focus on community-level change by empowering individuals and organizations to move into better alignment with their values.  Eboni is committed to improving lives and building capacity for communities to define and solve problems through creative and collaborative processes with the ultimate goal of healing and transformation. She holds an undergraduate degree in Biology from The University of Virginia and obtained her Master’s in Social Work from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008.  She has a private practice where she helps individuals heal, provides consultation for developing clinicians, and conducts workshops and training for community-based organizations. As the Programs Director with The Women’s Initiative, Eboni launched innovative programming and developed partnerships to meet the mental health needs of underserved populations in our community during her five year tenure. She also held the role of  Director of Diversity, Inclusion, and Global Outreach for the Mind & Life Institute, an organization dedicated to furthering the field of contemplative research to alleviate suffering and promote human flourishing. She is currently the Director of Programs at the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation and is a member of the Central Virginia Clinicians of Color Network and the Second Street Gallery Board of Directors.  In addition to community engagement, Eboni is passionate about the healing benefits of mindful movement, breathing and meditation and is a Registered Yoga Teacher. She is also a mother, skillful cook, puppy mama, and avid scuba diver. In summation, she can be described as a multi-faceted, stubborn giver, and loving advocate of transformative being. She also wears fantastic socks!

Artist: Christy Baker

Christy Baker is a painter and designer by passion and profession. She holds a Bachelor’s of Fine Art from Pratt Institute, where she focused on painting and sculpture as well as product, toy, and fashion design. Her insatiable curiosity drives Ms. Baker to constantly experiment and innovate with materials and processes, often playing in the intersection of art and everyday living.  She has been painting canvases, walls, and furniture professionally for over two decades. She is the owner and founder of greenyellowblue, a mural and artistic finishing/design studio and former co-owner of both Pigment and Good Bones Paint.

Ms. Baker’s passion is to engage the public in unexpected creative experiences, whether through large-scale murals, playful sculptural installations, or thoughtfully painted interiors and objects. Central to her work is collaboration: with client, fellow artists and designers, neighbor and stranger. She seeks to embolden imaginative way-finding to more inclusive, celebratory daily living.

Her studio and home are located in the vibrant city of Charlottesville where she lives with her husband, two sons, and dogs, Snap and Cosmo.

 A bit about this project: Navigating connection during this time of physical and, in many cases, spiritual separation has forced me to take uncharted routes toward and with others. Sitting down with Eboni, half of our faces hidden, seemed strangely fitting to the challenge of uncovering her as the subject for a portrait. Her eyes shone as she spoke of her daughter and adventures underwater. Her hands moved to express the settling into a thought and then fluttered and danced when she described moments of unexpected joy. 

When I visited her bright and art-adorned home she had a slice of homemade pecan pie waiting for me. And when she removed her mask so I could take photos for reference, the fullness of her beauty – her person – filled the sunlit room.

Initially, I had thought of fantastical scenes she could inhabit in my painting of her. I thought of coral reefs and starlit skies. I imagined the smell of collards simmering on the stove and the warmth of her puppy’s fur as she bounced at her feet. I imagined undulating colors signifying her dedication to transformational healing. But the simplicity of her expression contained multitudes. The shine of her eyes and the movement of her hands told all of those stories, set all of those moments in place at the same time.

 One other item of note: Eboni told me she had been listening to the music of Phoebe Snow quite a lot recently (She named her new puppy after her). Later that day I happened to find two of Ms. Snow’s albums at a local thrift store. I listened to them the whole time I painted the portrait!

Estela Knott & Michael Jones

Portrayed: Estela Knott

Estela Knott grew up in Luray, a town nestled in the mountains of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  Her mother emigrated to the US from Chihuahua, Mexico and her father was a native of Luray. It was in this multicultural household that she developed a passion for the musical traditions of both Mexico and Appalachia.  Estela went on to become a professional musician, and along with her husband and fellow musician, Dave Berzonsky, developed a musical style called ‘Mexilachian’ (so named for the fusion of Mexican and Appalachian folk traditions that it represents). They formed the Lua Project, which she has described as a “cultural pollinator,” drawing on and blending musical traditions from all over the world.  From her extensive travels, she has amassed a wealth of knowledge in folk music, which she shares as an educator and performer in the Charlottesville community.

Artist: Michael Jones

Michael Jones is a Charlottesville based filmmaker, photographer and writer. He grew up in Staunton Virginia, and after attending college at UVA, spent more than a year living in Northeastern China, where he developed a passion for film. His nascent works include both documentary and narrative films, as well as short works of narrative nonfiction. Michael is currently based at the McGuffey Art Center for a yearlong residency.

Kaki Dimock & Laura Lee Gulledge

Portrayed: Kaki Dimock

Kaki Dimock is a local artist, social worker, and animal lover. 

She’s always dreaming & thinking of animals…and thinks humans are animals. She sees us as inherently connected, which is why her colorful artwork often depicts animals in interconnected environmental systems. “Regardless of our intentions we have an impact on each other.”

She loves both humans and animals with an open heart…and puts that love into action through fighting for justice in both the animal & human worlds.

In the HUMAN world she’s the Director of Human Services for the City of Charlottesville where she helps with juvenile justice, foster care, and family resilience work. She’s also done inspiring work with The Haven. Then in the ANIMAL realm, she’s on the board of the Rockbridge Sanctuary in Nelson County which rescues & rehabilitates native wildlife.

Kaki grew up in North Garden where she currently resides with her wife and five rescue dogs. Her spirit animal is a rhino, which Laura Lee tried her best to incorporate into the portrait to no avail but it ended up just being too much. @kakidimock

Artist: Laura Lee Gulledge

Laura Lee Gulledge is a local visual storyteller, teaching artist, and Artner.

Like Kaki, I’m a creative sensitive animal lover who as kids dreamt of becoming a vet. And I too decided to focus on helping humans as I got older, by going into education. A desire for creative expression & serving community is something we both share.

I’m known for my greyscale comics and introspective art, so drawing portraits of other people is a very new exploration for me. And it’s my first time doing so in color. The first time I sewed paper onto canvas. And the first time I did realism with watercolor since high school. I was grateful for this Artnering opportunity in creative pioneering.

I wanted to make Kaki’s portrait colorful and heroic, radiating with love & joy. Kaki’s art influenced the striated background brimming with animals who populate her world. The poem is one Kaki shared which resonated with us both. oh my god look at the moon!

I grew up in Manassas, Virginia and currently live in Charlottesville with my rescue cat. I’m always dreaming & thinking of music, puns, and dancing. My spirit animal is a parrot fish, which is funny because I’m scared of fish.

Ken Edwards & Sarah Miller

Portrayed: Ken Edwards

A few things to know about Ken Edwards: He is a loving father to four daughters (two sets of twins), a dutiful worker at the Barracks Road USPS, and a part-time pastor.   Ken grew up in Joliet, Illinois, and shortly after moving to Charlottesville he met his wife, Holly. As he describes Holly, she was a woman who made a deep impact in the community. Her absence is felt intensely by Ken, his family, and the city of Charlottesville since her passing in 2017. 

When I first met Ken, it was apparent that he is a joyful person with a warm demeanor, and he can easily bring a smile to any face. He is one who is able to engage in serious, heartfelt conversation as well as crack a joke at the perfect moment. Some of his favorite pastimes are making banana pudding, grooving on his roller skates, and cheering on the Chicago Bears. 

Artist: Sarah Miller

Sarah Miller is a painter who works primarily in gouache and watercolor. Since getting a BFA in drawing, painting, and printmaking, Sarah has been very interested in seeking more understanding in portraiture and color theory. In her everyday life, she tries to observe colors, shadows and patterns in order to learn more about how to integrate them into her work. 

In this particular portrait, Sarah wanted to bring elements that were meaningful to Ken, namely details that honor his wife’s memory. Green and pink are incorporated which are the colors of sorority Holly was a part of. There are also four stripes that represent Ken’s four daughters.

Lillie Williams & Benita Mayo

Portrayed: Lillie Williams

Getting to know Lillie was like catching up with an old friend. Lillie & I had never met; but we soon realized our one degree of separation and discovered many other shared interests. We felt our pairing was through divine intervention, “You want to make God laugh, you tell him what you gonna do” which was followed by a warm hearty laugh.  A laugh that said, we understood each other without ever saying the words. Through the triptych, my aim is to introduce the person I saw through my lens – a woman of faith, a performing artist and a woman of wisdom.

Who is a hero? As humans, we’re limited in our abilities.  We can’t see through walls, fly through the sky or use our Magic Lasso to conquer evil.  But we do not have to look far to find a local hero who has unselfishly given to the community for many years.  Lillie is best known for her commitment to the Charlottesville Chihamba Dance Troupe and the annual African American Cultural Arts Festival.  She is a mother of four and grandmother to six. She is faithful to her church, Pilgrim Baptist; and she is a 28-year employee at the UVA Medical Center currently as a Cardiac Technician. Lillie has been one of those people caring for others in need before and during the Pandemic.  She does not consider herself a front-line worker, “I consider the front line to be the people who are taking care of the COVID patients. I go to the floors and have to check the machines…. Those people are in there all day long…back & forth…back & forth. In my spirit, those are the front-line workers.”  

To me, Lillie is one of the unsung heroes who goes in everyday, giving her best despite the risk of exposure; and like so many, she has not been able to hug her 90-year-old mother. Her response, “I pray every day”.

Artist: Benita Mayo

I love photography; and I’m grateful for the doors it has opened and the people I’ve met on the journey. My fine art pieces reflect a contemplative approach and my portraiture reflects a collaboration between myself and the other person.  

For me, photography has been a practice of introspection and relationships.  It’s a privilege when given the opportunity to make a portrait. I seek to capture not only their personality; but their essence.  I enjoy developing a relationship with them; and I’m curious about their life’s journey.  It is important that I listen to their stories; and if I’m lucky, I’ll discover a detail or morsel that I can use as inspiration. 

I am a native of Virginia and hold an undergraduate degree from UVA.  I am a sister, auntie, friend, visual storyteller, yoga teacher and fine art photographer. I am an introvert who is often mistaken for an extrovert.  I am introspective, enjoy time for musing and reflection and relationships underpin everything I do. I have an innate need to deepen relationships and understand one’s feelings, goals and fears.

After graduation, my career took me away for several years; but I recently returned to the area in 2017.  Although Charlottesville had changed from the college town I knew in the 1980’s and 1990’s; it still had the same draw to me – community, good food and beautiful Fall days. 

Locally, my work has been shown at Second Street Gallery, McGuffey Art Center, Martha Jefferson Hospital and the Center at Belvedere. I have photographed for TEDx Charlottesville, Library of Congress, Smithsonian Folk Life Festival, Virginia Book Festival and Help Portrait.

Patricia K. Ross & Matt Eich

Portrayed: Patricia K. Ross

I was born in Manila in 1984.  Aquarius Sun, Libra Moon, Libra Rising for the moonbeam humans. Moved to Astoria, Queens, NYC in ‘88. Lived in Virginia Beach from ‘91 until I left for college in 2001. But I didn’t consider myself a townie until 2005.

I had three jobs my last year of college, and Splendora’s was one of them.  A pastry chef lived in Blue House (on 14th and Wertland) and she opened my eyes to what taking your time with food could do.  So, I kinda caught the bug to want to go to culinary school in 2005.  I was saving to go, while being a kitchen manager at Splendora’s, when the Ayres, Fax and Andrea, offered to sell me the shop in 2010.

As for what keeps me creating?  The people around me, to be honest. One of my best friends lived in Charlottesville after college. We spent way too much money on food and ingredients, but I refined my palate that way.  And then the producers around here are bonkers! Such beautiful things that sing when you treat them right.  Cheeses, beers, wines, fruits, vegetables, honey, etc. You can’t not be inspired by the quality.  Also, I miss chefs. Crazy minds that push me to make fish sauce caramel or beef marrow gelato flavors. I genuinely miss the energy of collaboration. And foraging. We’re on an edible planet if you work for it.

Artist: Matt Eich

Matt Eich is a photographic essayist working on long-form projects related to memory, family, community, and the American condition. His work has been shown in more than 20 solo exhibitions and his projects have received grant support including an Aaron Siskind Fellowship and a VMFA Professional Visual Arts Fellowship. Eich has been an Artist-in-Residence at Light Work in 2013, and a Robert Rauschenberg Residency in 2019. He is the author of four monographs of photography. Matt teaches at Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at George Washington University and self-publishes under the imprint Little Oak Press. He lives in Charlottesville with his wife and two daughters.

Reggie Leonard & Derrick Waller

Portrayed: Reggie Leonard

A friend recently said of me, “I’ve never seen you do a basic thing in my life.” I just think it’s hard to ignore infinity, and I’d like to see as much of it as I can. So, I would say that I am an aesthete, a polymath, and a professional troublemaker. I spend my days creating access to STEM opportunities, and my evenings and weekends creating and exploring, often through food and wine (and other strong beverages). More importantly, I’m an uncle to the sweetest niece and nephew, a son and a brother, a godfather, and a housemate.

Building a world that is liveable for ALL of us is the goal. Doing it WITH others is the plan.

Artist: Derrick Waller

I am a proud graduate of the University of Virginia and have spent my whole life in Virginia currently residing in Charlottesville.  My expressive outlet is photography, where I find great joy in documenting candid moments of everyday life. My appreciation of photography started at an early age, but mainly as a ‘looker’ and not a ‘taker.’  It was the unexpected loss of my mother that pushed me to give it a shot. This interest quickly became a passion, and now I feel like I am missing out on moments if not documenting them. Although my main artistic medium is photography, I also enjoy painting.  

When you don’t see a camera or paintbrush in my hand, you will find me spending time with my beautiful wife Sarah, and 5 1/2 month old baby girl, Josephine.  

I had the utmost pleasure of getting to know Reggie through the Face to Face project. We had a brief introduction in the past, however, neither of us could place our fingers on the who, what, when, where, or why.  But this time around, it was really good to learn more about his background, his career, what drives him and some of his goals.  I was especially intrigued by his love for wine and a passion of his to make all aspects of it more accessible for people of color.  For that reason, this was the focal point of our photography session for this project and based on how much fun we had, I don’t think this will be the last.  I foresee many more projects to come.

Sean Tubbs  & Tesceline Tabilas

Portrayed: Sean Tubbs 

Walt Whitman wrote “Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself; (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” Contradictions navigate Sean Tubbs through his work and life. The gravity of it all is what pulls him forward and he embraces them. He considers life deeply from various points of views. He thinks change is a part of being human and nothing is guaranteed. This opens up to multitudes of perspectives, perceptions, opinions, beliefs, decisions, and values. 

Being that Sean is known to be inquisitive, it is no wonder he gravitates towards science and has appreciation for all those who have ever questioned, specifically in astronomy. An interest in answers and truth also makes his career in journalism an incredible match. His writing demonstrates the stories, challenges, and issues of Charlottesville and around Virginia that need to be told and that continue to build on to the foundation of those before us. He fully invests in community information by bearing witness to current events and documenting the details as gathered from meetings, press conferences, and interviews. Sean offers rich content through his frequent newscast and newsletter. There is a sense of collaging he does with the content he compiles and produces. This is analogous to Sean’s passion for music and sound collaging. Just as Sean composes layers of sound to create an auditory art piece, he collates layers of content to create an informative piece. 

Life is complex and the layers of it all is what Sean explores daily. He will admit to faults and fallibilities, as well as confidently states, “I know nothing.” Because of this concept, it is a driving force for him to continue to seek knowledge, share what he can with others, and create a space that provides an equal voice to all those taking part. 

Artist: Tesceline Tabilas

Tesceline Tabilas is a designer. She has built her career crafting digital products and designing experiences with the focus on the needs of others. When she is not designing, she is studying areas of psychology, participating in expressive arts workshops, or exploring different art and design techniques. She integrates imagery and words to express emotional experience. Drawing gives her moments of stillness. Writing also provides solace. She prefers the quiet side of life, appreciates minimalism, and embraces simplicity.

The creative process with the Face to Face program nurtured collaborative connection and compassion. While she chooses solitude over socializing, she is still in awe of and curious about others. She is grateful that the program expanded a doorway into sharing in the complexities that make us human. She feels that art can be a bridge for connecting with others, as well as can be healing through the process of creating. She believes acts of kindness can open up to more wonder and that it awakens to the heartspace that naturally embraces all of life.

Xavier Taylor & Raneem Tarfa

Portrayed: Xavier Taylor

Xavier Taylor is a singer, actor, and music director. Since growing up in Maryland and starting

out his musical journey through The Maryland State Boychoir, studying classical voice repertoire at the Carver Center for the Arts, and attending the New England Conservatory of Music, he has grown to gain recognition across the country. He went on to work with various opera companies and YAPs including Boston Metro Opera, Utopia Opera, Regina Opera, Opera company of Brooklyn, Cimarron Opera, Nashville Opera, and Nashville Symphony. Xavier is currently the Choral Director at the Field School, the Vocal Director at DMR Adventures, the host of the weekly classical singing show on WTJU “A Time For Singing”, and the founder of the jazz ensemble “Xavier Trio.” In his free time, he enjoys the peace and serenity of fishing for catfish and bass.

Artist: Raneem Tarfa

Raneem Tarfa is an Egyptian American artist who grew up in the DMV area and has been

making art all her life, whether it be through drawing, photography, fashion design, or sculpture. At 12 years old, she launched her first online business where she continues to sell handmade jewelry and original artwork. She works primarily in oil pastel, gouache, and newspaper to create texture and interest in her commissions and has created album cover artwork for rappers Coachwave and Connor Caine. Raneem is currently studying Computer Science, Studio Art and French at UVA and is pursuing a career in software engineering.

Yolonda Coles Jones & Jae Johnson

Portrayed: Yolonda Coles Jones

Yolonda Coles Jones, also known as “The Bringer of Calm” and the “Teacher of Thrive”, is a Healing, Wellness & Empowerment-Centered Coach and Education Consultant who specializes in coming alongside households–families and individuals–as well as teachers and school systems to support them in deepening into conscious connection with themselves and with those around them. From that place she guides and supports you in building confidence, developing clarity, realizing calm and implementing strategies for success. 

Her trademarked Empowered People formula utilizes a powerfully effective combination of mindful breathing & meditation, conscious communication, somatic (body) awareness, boundary awareness, forgiveness, gratitude, joy and deep self-care all as authentic-to-you and accessible ongoing practices. 

The scope of her work covers parenting relationships, parent-child / teacher-child dynamics, self- awareness, marriage and long-term partnerships, infidelity, home-based education and self- actualization.

She resides in Albemarle County, VA where she is committed to liberation and thriving with her husband and partner in life, William Jones, III; their four children, Shiloh, Samari, Liam & Yosi; and two pups, Sosondowah “SoSo”

Artist: Jae Johnson

Jae Johnson grew up in the Fifeville area of Charlottesville, Virginia. He attended Venable Elementary school where his art instructor and favorite teacher, Ms. Joanne Curry, first pushed him to be the best artist he could be. During elementary school, however, he stopped drawing and didn’t start again until his freshman year at Charlottesville High School. After graduating in 2006, Jae went on to Virginia State University where he majored in studio art. Jae Jae has numerous pieces in private collections in places ranging from Maryland to Oakland, California. His preferred medium is currently Copic markers with a touch of graphite. He is currently employed full time with Jaunt in Charlottesville and enjoys his off time celebrating life with his wife Raeshonda, two children(Ayden & Chase) and pups Logan & Zeke.