Tonawanda News — It all started with a vision.
One day, when artist Richard Sean Manning took two large ceramic “stacks” he had created out of a kiln, he and his wife Laura realized they looked like the Twin Towers, and that started Manning on a mission.
He pledged to create a series of one-of-a-kind ceramic “911 Twin Towers” and donate them to museums across the country.
The first permanent exhibit was installed at the Great Explorations Children’s Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla.
But perhaps most thrilling for the artist was when he found out that his work was accepted as part of the permanent collection at the National September 11 Memorial Museum at Ground Zero in New York City. The nine-foot tall towers will be featured in an exhibit of “Relief/Response Art.”
Richard realized that museums would need funding to create spaces for the works, and for the instructional materials to go along with them.
That’s when Richard, a Starpoint graduate, artist and philanthropist, decided to create 3,000 original paintings, called Unity Art — one for each person killed in the Sept. 11 attack, and sell them online to raise money for the museums, and also to benefit other charities.
Up until that time, Richard had been a prolific artist, but had worked primarily with clay. So his pledge to paint 3,000 pieces was a bit daunting, to say the least.
But that didn’t deter the animated and enthusiastic artist.
To date, he has completed 1,800 of the paintings.
“When I started a couple of years ago, I just worked with one cheap brush, because I didn’t know any better,” he said.
Today, the paintings have evolved, with Richard using a number of different brushes, and even some botanicals, such as branches and flowers, to create the paintings.
Although some works in the Unity series — Richard always creates works in a series of 18, because it’s a mystical number — refer directly to 9/11, other themes have nothing to do with the attacks.