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Chicago Man Paints Portrait of Galesburg

T.J. Carson
John Bakker works on painting one of the 300 boxes he has planned for the Galesburg Portrait Project.

An art project by this fall's Artist-in-Residence at Knox College aims to capture the essence and variety of Galesburg.  John Bakker, who's from Chicago, called his three-month effort the "Galesburg Portrait Project."

Bakker takes pictures of people who live and work in Galesburg, and recreates the portraits on Baltic birch boxes with oil paints. He said the idea is to demonstrate that everyone has value and a purpose. 

“500 years ago, the only people who got their portraits painted were kings and extraordinarily wealthy people. So to paint somebody’s portrait by hand as opposed to doing a quick snapshot, is a way to pay attention to the significance of that human being,” Bakker said.

Bakker said he wants to include a wide range of community members in his portraits, saying he wants senior citizens, country club members, students, and more.

The Galesburg Portrait Project is not the first time he’s done a project like this. Bakker was once commissioned to do a similar series for Chicago policemen.

Bakker said he’s obtained at least 60 portraits so far and plans on completing six per day towards his goal of 300 portraits. He said the portraits will eventually end up in a gallery, but are designed to be placed all over the city.

“You can stack them up at the library. You could split them up between the library and Sandburg College. And what we hope is that they travel across Galesburg and several spots for a year or two before they finally land someplace permanently,” Bakker said.

Bakkeris still taking submissions for portraits on his website.