PROVIDENCE — Think you could paint the official portrait of former governor Gina Raimondo? The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts is calling for creatives to apply to paint the state’s first female governor.
The commission is $50,000, with additional stipends to cover travel, crating, and shipping of the finished work as required. The deadline to apply is June 30.
The governor’s official portrait is a state tradition, said Randall Rosenbaum, executive director of the council, a post he has held since 1995. According to state law, commissioning of an official portrait of each Rhode Island governor is the responsibility of the secretary of state. The portraits must eventually be hung on the walls of the State House.
“When you walk into the State House, you’ll see halls lined with portraits of past governors,” Rosenbaum said. “We take these portraits seriously. It’s how we continue to tell our history.”
And this piece will hold even more historic weight than the portraits of the past 74 governors.
Raimondo was elected as Rhode Island’s first female governor in November 2014. Since she became the US commerce secretary earlier this year, her national profile has continued to rise.
Julie Gearan was selected out of 124 applicants to paint former governor Lincoln Chafee’s portrait. She was paid $15,000, which Rosenbaum said was low for an official portrait of a former governor, though artists who painted former governors Don Carcieri and Lincoln Almond were paid the same amount. The council, which suggests a commissioning fee to the state, decided that the fee for Raimondo’s portrait would be higher because of “how historic the moment was,” Rosenbaum said.
Applicants must submit a resume and upload six digital images of relevant, previous work. Each applicant’s work will be reviewed by the Governor’s Portrait Committee, which is put together by the council and includes representatives from the former governor, the secretary of state’s office, and artists who can help advise the selection process.
The members of this year’s committee include artists Gearan and Mary Beth Meehan, council chairperson Libby Slader, vice chair Kate Blacklock, and council member Lorraine Hynes. Raimondo’s former chief of staff David Ortiz will serve on the committee; artists Suilam (Sue) Bohorquez and Becci Davis will represent Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea.
While the committee will suggest the top 10 candidates, Raimondo will have the final say on the selection. Rosenbaum said a decision will be made no later than December 2021 and the work must be complete by November 2022.
“They’ll sit down with the former governor and really talk about the things she will want included and what she wants to be remembered by,” said Rosenbaum.
Previous governors have been very specific in their requests. William Sprague IV, who was in office in 1860 to 1863, is seated on a horse with one white hoof on a beach in his portrait. Instead of a typical portrait in his office with a flag, Chafee, who served as governor from 2011 to 2015, is looking to the side with his left hand resting on a rock to symbolize the state and what it had endured as well as the former governor’s love of nature, according to news reports at the time.
Dozens of artists have submitted applications since April 30, Rosenbaum said, and women artists, artists of color, and emerging artists are encouraged to apply. Rhode Island artists are preferred, but artists from anywhere may apply.
“Just this morning, I received an application from Budapest,” he said. “If there’s an artist in Asia or Europe that sees the call and applies, they will also be considered. It’s the quality work that will rise to the top.”
He added, “We expect a lot of people to be interested in this commission for fairly obvious reasons.”