Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Nonprofit to memorialize Harrisburg gun violence victims in art exhibit, seeks families to participate

Portrait of Shahjahan S. McCaskill by artist Stephanie Smith

Harrisburg area families affected by gun violence may have a unique opportunity to memorialize a loved one.

Philadelphia-based Souls Shot Portrait Project is searching for families and friends of gun violence victims to participate in an art exhibit planned for Harrisburg’s Susquehanna Art Museum.

“This is an opportunity for them to have their voice heard and to tell the story they want to tell about their loved one,” said Laura Madeleine, executive director of Souls Shot.

The project, which began in 2016, seeks to honor victims and bring attention to the issue of gun violence. The organization does this by linking artists with families and friends who share stories about their loved one. The artists then paint, sculpt or sketch a portrait of the victim.

Since its founding, the organization has hosted six exhibits, mainly in Philadelphia, with a recent one in New Jersey. However, it is now expanding its reach to Harrisburg.

From Jan. 12 to April 16, Souls Shot will hold an exhibit in the Susquehanna Art Museum in Harrisburg. They are currently looking for families in the city to participate, according to Madeleine. Participation is free. They expect the exhibit to feature mainly victims from Harrisburg, with others from the commonwealth.

Madeleine explained that the exhibits serve to benefit both the families of the victims, as well as the audience that views the artwork. She hopes that the exhibit will move attendees to explore how they can take action to combat gun violence. At the exhibit and on their website, the organization provides resources for those wanting to learn more about the issue or take action.

“Artwork can blaze a trail to the heart and mind,” Madeleine said. “It’s a very bittersweet experience. I’ve never seen someone come to an exhibit and leave not moved.”

While the experience can be difficult at times for the families who participate, Madeleine said, they are always grateful to the artists for listening to their stories.

“We the artists feel like this is using our talents in the best way that we can,” she said.

For more information about Souls Shot Portrait Project, visit their website. For families and friends of victims who are interested in participating, click here. Artists interested in the project can click here. Other inquiries can be directed to or by calling 215-740-8678.


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