Chris Emmanuel gifted his portrait of Rosa Parks to staff and students at Rosa Parks Elementary on Tuesday. Emmanuel, who has also painted murals at Minnesota State University and South Central College, said he originally painted the portrait for a TV station in Washington, D.C., that invited him to create a work of art for Black History Month: “I hope people see the strength in her eyes, her determination and passion.”
Mankato’s ‘adopted’ artist gives another gift of art
Rosa Parks portrait given to elementary school with same name
Circumstance has once again brought Chris Emmanuel and his art to Mankato.
Typically, the Belizean artist can be found at his gallery on Ambergris Caye, an island off the coast of Belize that is home to the world’s second-largest barrier reef and a vibrant art community.
But for the third time this year, Emmanuel was in Mankato on Tuesday. This time, because a Rosa Parks Elementary teacher happened into his island gallery and inquired about a painting with no price tag.
“I asked him how much for the painting,” said Leah Ries, a music teacher at Rosa Parks who was vacationing at the time. “He said it wasn’t for sale.”
Turns out, the painting was a gift instead.
That painting was a portrait of Rosa Parks, the famed civil rights activist for whom Mankato Area Public Schools’ newest elementary was named. Though Emmanuel initially turned down the offer to sell the painting, he soon began to reconsider.
“I just felt this portrait belonged in a place where it would be loved and appreciated,” Emmanuel said. “I wanted it to be a gift to all the kids at Rosa Parks Elementary.”
Emmanuel has already given the gift of art to Minnesota State University and South Central College.
After a group of MSU educators discovered Emmanuel’s gallery while visiting the island to help create educational programs, he was invited to campus to create a mural that celebrated the institution’s commitment to diversity.
He finished that mural in late June with the help of 85 students in the College Access Program, a college-readiness initiative aimed at underrepresented students.
From there, officials at South Central College caught sight of Emmanuel’s work and invited him to create a mural in the student lounge area.
“Mankato has kind of adopted me,” Emmanuel said. “The people are so wonderful and warm.”
As a thank you for Emmanuel’s gift, Ries taught the entire school a song using lyrics that Emmanuel wrote. They performed the song — complete with choreography — during an all-school assembly.
“It’s just amazing to have this painting in our school,” she said.
The portrait will be displayed in the entrance to the school.
Mankato Free Press