The Portraits of Grace Exhibition at the Sheen Center

“Have you ever curated an exhibition before?”

If you had asked me three months ago, my answer would have been an awkward “no.”

In my defense, having worked for an eternity as a photo editor and Art Director I should be up for the task.

But the short answer would still be no.

Thankfully they didn’t ask.

Sheen Center Board Member, Amanda Bowman, was the inspiration and engine behind the project. A project that I think is flat-out genius.
The exhibition was to mark the Center’s grand reopening in the context of where we’ve been as people.

It would be a narrative of heroic actions and heroic faith and how the two formed one heart. And how that heart saved lives, gave hope, and inspired courage through the darkest days of the pandemic.

It would breathe its first breath as an installed exhibition and would be continued as an online multimedia experience. Then at a date in the future would come back as an expanded, more immersive installation.

Photograph by Jeffrey Bruno

The Missing Picture(s)

The entire process of developing and launching the project was an absolute pleasure. A great concept. A cooperative, passionate team. And a fantastic printing company.

There’s really not much else one could ask for…except for photographs.

I had the full support of the Communications Department of the Archdiocese of New York. They were going to reach out across all the ministries and reap the bountiful harvest of imagery spanning all ministries…

Or so I thought.

Apparently, it was a drought year. The harvest was, let just say, lean. Then I turned to the wire services. Then the stock photo agencies. Etcetera, etcetera…

To say that there were very few epic photographs of frontline workers performing heroic actions would be an understatement. Because there certainly was no shortage of heroic actions!

I desperately reached out to NY-based photographers and eventually found precisely the two I needed. One is a freelancer for Catholic News Agency, and the other is a staff photographer for Northwell Health.

Greg Shemitz, an award-winning photographer and visual storyteller, is known for his work chronicling the life of the Church.

And Lee Weissman photographed the pandemic from behind the front lines from day 1. Weissman’s body of work is worthy of a Pulitzer.

Photo by Lee Weissman | Northwell Health

The Opening

I’ve never been to a gallery opening.

So it stands to reason that I didn’t really know what to expect. But there was one thing I knew…I would be on stage with Amanda and Cardinal Dolan for a bit of talk discussing the exhibition.

Quite frankly, I found that terrifying.

Some people like the spotlight; I’m not one of them.

But the show opened anyway.

And the images told their silent stories of God’s Love acting through the charity, sacrifice, and heroic service of those committed to bringing health, hope, and healing to those in need.

The current exhibition runs from September 14-October 3 and is open to the public. For more information, please visit the Sheen Center Website.

A few photos from the opening…

Cardinal Timothy Dolan views the photographs at the Portraits of Grace Exhibition at the Sheen Center.
[Photograph by Rodney Hurley]
Cardinal Dolan discusses the exhibition with Editor-in-Chief of Catholic New York, John Woods [Photograph by Rodney Hurley]
(Pictured L-R) Photographer David Levy, Amanda Bowman, Cardinal Dolan and me. [Photograph by Rodney Hurley]
(Pictured L-R) Exhibition photographer David Levy, me, and Portraits of Grace Award recipient, photographer, Lee Weissman. [Photograph by Rodney Hurley]

Jeffrey Bruno is an award winning photojournalist and creative director specializing in the mission and beauty of the Catholic Church around the globe.