Behind the Portrait: Ron Lovett

A Greatriarch is a longtime community member who has served their neighborhood well. They are the people you know riding their bike down the street, offering a trusted hand during an emergency, or picking you up when you need a ride. They are trustworthy friends, caring neighbors, and wise mentors. For the past two years, artist Abi Ogle, has painted thoughtful portraits of the Monon16 Greatriarchs. The Greatriarch project reminds us that every neighbor has a story that deserves to be heard. These community members were included in this series because they have invited us to bear witness to their stories.

From the Artist, Abi Ogle

“These neighbors shared their stories with me at porch parties and in conversations in the Monon16 area (where the Hillside and Kennedy King neighborhoods come together), and in return I hope to enter into a conversation with them through art that is dignifying, tied to art history, and honoring. Each Greatriarch is painted purple, a color that is associated historically with royalty. Every portrait has an intentional art historical reference in an effort to pay homage to the work of an African American artist. The first round of Greatriarchs were created in 2017 as portraits and were displayed as public art during the inaugural PreEnactIndy performance on 16th Street. This second round of landscape-oriented portraits, created in 2019, will be shown on 16th Street in October during PreEnactIndy to expand the conversation and depict the ways these Greatriachs have served and are seen by their neighbors.”

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About Ron Lovett’s Portrait

Ron Lovett is someone who grew up, moved away, and then came back to be a part of his neighborhood. He is thankful for how he was brought up by the elders of the community. When he returned, he in turn cared for the neighbors who had disciplined him. He took these lessons of care for community to his career as a firefighter. He encouraged his fellow firefighters to be kind to the people they came in contact with. Each person, whether a prisoner, someone homeless, or someone who was in danger, became one who was part of his community, one of his people. Mr. Ron’s leadership helped calm people in emergencies because they recognized him as someone they could trust. 

Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery Through Reconstruction , by Aaron Douglas was important in reference to Mr. Ron’s portrait because of his sense of community. Similar to the painting, light radiates from the scene, and yet there are darker truths underneath the original narrative. Though there is beauty and community, there are hard truths casting shadows. This was increasingly apparent as Mr. Ron spoke about trauma and the heartache that comes with living long term in a community, witnessing gentrification, and neighborhood deaths.

Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery to Reconstructions,  1934, Aaron Douglas

Aspects of Negro Life: From Slavery to Reconstructions, 1934, Aaron Douglas

Ron Lovett

Ron Lovett