Mayor Frank G. Jackson Unveils Official Portrait

City’s longest serving mayor takes his place in historic gallery of leaders  

CLEVELAND –Mayor Frank G. Jackson today unveiled his official portrait, painted by local artist Rob Hartshorn. The artwork was revealed in a public ceremony in Cleveland City Hall and now hangs permanently in the Mayor’s Office Red Room. Mayor Jackson and Hartshorn delivered remarks, along with opening statements by Chair of the Mayor Frank G. Jackson Legacy Committee Umberto P. Fedeli. The committee, along with supporter Donna M. Kohl, sponsored the historic portrait.

View images of the portrait and the Facebook Live video from the ceremony. View raw footage of the unveiling in the Red Room.

“My purpose as mayor has always been to leave this city better than how I found it, position Cleveland for a sustainable future and move the city toward the path of a great city, where all can share in prosperity and quality of life,” said Mayor Jackson. “Together, we have faced and overcome challenges and hard times. Yes, we are a successful city. We are well positioned for the future, but all this will change with the next crisis, if not dealt with properly. I have run my leg of this relay. Much has been done, but more needs to be done.”

On Jan. 2, 2018, Mayor Frank G. Jackson took the oath of office for a historic fourth term – which makes him the City of Cleveland’s longest serving Mayor. During his time in office, Mayor Jackson has been an advocate for building equity and opportunity for all Clevelanders in all neighborhoods.

Mayor Jackson, who is from the Central neighborhood, has dedicated more than 30 years to serving the citizens of Cleveland. He spent more than 15 years as a member and president of City Council, then finally as a four-term mayor. His administration is known for its sound fiscal management, overseeing a $1.8 billion budget and seeing the city through various recessions and most recently the COVID-19 pandemic.

He has worked to reimagine and transform Cleveland’s schools with the Cleveland Plan and the Higher Education Compact; invested millions in Cleveland’s neighborhoods on streetscapes, new recreation facilities, and other capital improvements; and worked with the public sector to encourage more private development in Cleveland. He has built partnerships with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and community organizations to address the causes and impacts of gun and youth violence. A dedicated public servant, Jackson has always focused on ensuring that the city offers an excellent quality of life for every resident, building greater equity in every aspect of City operations and policy to help reach that goal. His innovative policies and practices, acknowledging ‘the least of us’ has laid a foundation for generations to come.

“Whatever I have accomplished over the past 16 years, was not done on my own,” Jackson continued. “I thank my family, cabinet, city employees and businesses and I thank you, the residents of the City of Cleveland for allowing me to serve as your mayor for the past 16 years.”

More about Artist Robert Hartshorn & the Mayor’s Portrait Process

Rob Hartshorn is a master portrait artist and an award-winning painter. He is a fourth generation artist and teacher and is nationally recognized for his commissioned portraits of prominent men, women, children and families in oil and pastel.

His Tremont studio is home to full time working painters, sculptors, and photographers serving an international clientele. The Studios are invested in enriching the community, sharing skills and encouraging other artists. A statement from the artist:

“I am an artist who specializes in painting people’s portraits. I have had the good fortune to paint college presidents, business executives, religious leaders and congressmen … very prominent people. Normally, I’m given an hour or two to have a photo session to create just the right image from which I can paint the portrait in my studio. Sometimes I don’t even get to meet my subject. Successful people are very busy, and I make the best of what time I’m given.

Thankfully, the painting of this portrait went down an entirely different path and I hope you agree that this path led to a work of art worthy of Mayor Jackson; The path began when I was given a rare opportunity to spend valuable time with the man I was about to paint.

Having your portrait painted is an intimate process. But few portrait subjects will let you see them as they really are. However, the Mayor gave me much more; we began with a conversation in his office at City Hall about a range of topics, from Cleveland history to economics to psychology. We met again at my studio in Tremont and discussed my approach to art. I knew that I had met a man of many interests and talents, a philosopher and a statesman.

Most importantly, we took a tour together of Cleveland, and I saw street by street the Cleveland that the Mayor knows. It was also a tour that went from his childhood through school to council, to council president to the Mayor’s seat. I saw the look in his eye as he described the Central neighborhood of his youth, and I saw how the community of today wrapped around him when the car stopped and he got out to meet folks in the neighborhood. I saw the fountains, the parks, and the new homes and highways under construction. For a rare time in my career I was given the gift of access.

The last step before painting was a photo session set up in City Hall. The natural light filtering down through the skylights drifted across the floor of the Rotunda for only a few minutes, but it was just right. And we captured just the right pose.

Mayor Jackson is from Central and I painted him that way. People in the foreground with the Mayor, then the Neighborhood, and then the city skyline in the background. I hope that in a visual way I was able to show his path, the path that he took in his life …with a nod to some of the citizens who guided him through his unprecedented career in public service.

Here is how the Mayor’s portrait was painted over many months…This is an oil painting in the tradition of the Old Masters which means that it was painted in many layers to enhance the vibrancy and depth of its colors and to give it a dramatic sense of atmosphere and distance. Finishing it off is an exquisite Bonfoey frame which is influenced by the Arts Crafts tradition found in the Guardians of the Carnegie Bridge and in historic Cleveland architecture.

More about the Bonfoey Gallery and the Portrait Frame

The Bonfoey Gallery has been in Downtown Cleveland for over a century and has been a staple in the arts community. With a staff of 14 employees, the gallery provides custom framing, installation, and restoration. Additionally, it houses an expansive collection of artworks by regional artists. A statement from the gallery:

The Bonfoey Gallery was honored to be a part of Mayor Frank Jackson’s legacy. Throughout our 128-year history, we have been asked to gild many of the frames on the former mayoral portraits.

The frame selected by the mayor is hand carved in a grand, traditional profile that will beautifully compliment the impressive portrait by Robert Hartshorn.

Our expert finishers spent hours preparing the raw frame for its final finish of gold metal leaf. The steps are explained below.

Multiple coats of gesso are applied, which fills in the grain to eliminate any imperfections in the wood. After it is dry, the finishers sand over the entire frame to ensure it is smooth. Red clay is then applied, which provides an undercoat so it can be red rubbed during its final stage. When the frame is dry, it is ready to be shellaced. This prepares the frame for the gold metal leaf finish.

The frame is now ready to be put in oil, or sized, which is the last step before the gold metal leaf is applied. Once the oil sets up, which takes 12 hours, the finishers lay the gold leaf and hand rub, or “skew”, the gold to fill in the crevices during this delicate state. Then, they rub the frame to expose some of the red clay underneath, giving the frame interest and depth.

At this point, the gold is very shiny, so a few more coats of orange shellac are applied over the metal leaf. This tones down the gold and protects the finish. Now the frame is ready for the final step, an application of antiquing, which tones down the gold and highlights the hand carving. The frame is then ready for the fitting of the portrait.

The Bonfoey Gallery was honored to create this special frame that will memorialize Mayor Frank Jackson and grace the “Red Room” for years to come.”