DAVIDSON – A painter from Nicaragua has been in residence at Davidson College Presbyterian Church to paint a 7-by-10 foot canvas about poverty and empowerment.

Gerardo Hernandez Arias, a painter and teacher from Managua who has produced more than 4,000 canvases and murals, arrived Jan. 25 and will leave Feb. 25.

His oil painting, titled “Energy and Solidarity Spirit Without Borders,” will be dedicated Feb. 23 and remain on permanent display in the congregation house.


21st century sacred art

In Gerardo’s painting, a child struggles with the burden of holding up a cross, but he is helped by four angels who represent the church. Another angel uses a tool to cut the chains of poverty, freeing the children and releasing doves of peace.

“I like to paint something with a social meaning,” Gerardo said through a Spanish translator. “One of the strongest things that I want to represent here is empowerment of the communities. The church can provide food, but to be able to have development, you have to empower the communities.”

Gerardo’s painting incorporates a mashup of classic Christian symbols – angels, doves, the cross, fishes and loaves – in a graphic style that is modern yet reminiscent of stained glass.


A partnership

DCPC met Gerardo through the Council of Protestant Churches in Nicaragua, which has united 70 denominations and churches in Nicaragua to empower communities and individuals to be the principal actors in their own development. CEPAD began in 1972 after a strong earthquake destroyed Managua. 

The church has worked with CEPAD since 2005 in partnership with a rural mountainous community called Kilambé.  Volunteers typically travel to Kilambé each June to work with leaders on education and youth leadership development. 

Gerardo began accompanying the DCPC teams to Kilambé in 2011 to conduct children’s art classes and to talk with the kids about showing respect, making good choices and reaching their dreams for the future. Prior to Gerardo's visits, the community did not have anyone to teach art.


A teacher

While in Davidson, Gerardo will speak at several schools and museums, including North Mecklenburg High.

A DCPC preschool class visited Geraldo on Feb. 7 at his makeshift studio in the Congregation House lobby. While the kids may not remember “solidarity,” the word Gerardo used to explain his painting, they will likely remember that this Nicaraguan painter enjoyed interrupting his work to talk with them about painting, pets and sombreros.

He also told them, “I see God in every one of you.”