Student art contest raises awareness, honors life of Fr. Gabriel Richard

A mural featuring Fr. Gabriel Richard created by Sr. Jane Mary Sorosiak, OSF, is seen inside the Huntington Place (formerly Cobo Center) in downtown Detroit. The Fr. Gabriel Richard Guild, which is promoting Fr. Richard's sainthood cause, is sponsoring a student art contest devoted to Detroit's "founding father," with winners earning $1,000. Entries are due by April 1. (Detroit Catholic file photo)

Basilica of Ste. Anne, Fr. Gabriel Richard Guild to award $1,000 to winning student artist and their school; entries due by April 1

DETROIT — Fr. Gabriel Richard is considered by many scholars to be one of the Motor City’s most important figures in its long history. During his tenure spanning four decades as the beloved pastor of the city's first parish, Ste. Anne, Fr. Richard steered the city through some of its most difficult times. He was instrumental in the rebuilding of Detroit following the devastating 1805 fire, helped locals navigate the divisive War of 1812, and dutifully administered the sacraments during the 1832 cholera epidemic that took his own life.

Despite Fr. Richard’s virtuous efforts and sacrificial service, few artistic renditions bearing his likeness have been created since his death. That will likely change in the coming weeks.

The Basilica of Ste. Anne and the Father Gabriel Richard Guild — a group dedicated to promoting the life of Detroit’s saintly priest — is hosting an art contest for young people to raise awareness about the seminal role Fr. Richard played in the life of the local Church.

Sponsored by Concorde Financial, the Father Gabriel Richard Art Contest will award $1,000 to three student artists and their respective Catholic schools. Students are encouraged to sketch, draw, color or paint an image of Fr. Richard.

Entries are due April 1, and the winning art will be displayed in the fall at the Basilica of Ste. Anne.

Kristen Andree, director of the Apostolic Center at the Basilica of Ste. Anne, hopes the art contest will reinvigorate Detroit’s devotion to its historic priest. As recently as 1958, Andree pointed out, “the city was proclaiming Dec. 15 as Fr. Gabriel Richard Day.” She lamented that “today, many people don't know who he is.”

“The hope is that this contest will encourage students of all ages to learn more about him,” Andree said. “Ideally, people get invested in his interesting life and share this information with their family, friends and community.”

The contest is divided into three age divisions: kindergarten through fourth grade, fifth through eighth grade, and ninth through 12th grade. First place in each age group will be awarded $1,000, in addition to $1,000 for their schools, courtesy of Concorde Financial.

The artwork must be two dimensional and be able to be displayed on an easel, "but after that there is no limit to the creativity," Andree said. "Students could use pens, crayons, make a collage, watercolor, photography — the list goes on.”

There are many events and accomplishments a student could choose to depict from Fr. Richard’s life, Andree added.

“There are so many elements to draw from — his French background and danger in the French Revolution, traveling around the Michigan territory, opening fisheries or schools, serving as a representative in Congress,” she said.

Teddy Howell, a third-grade student attending St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Academy in Newport, has been brainstorming ideas for his depiction of the holy priest.

“I was thinking about drawing Father Richard holding the flag of Detroit with the motto of the city, too,” Teddy said, adding he also is considering drawing Fr. Richard preaching on the banks of the Swan Creek in Newport to Native Americans and French settlers.

The 9-year-old said he was inspired by Fr. Richard’s commitment to Detroit during times of hardship and rebuilding. “I want to be a priest just like him,” Teddy declared.

The top art pieces will be selected by a committee of volunteers from the Fr. Gabriel Richard Guild, Basilica of Ste. Anne, and contest sponsor Concorde Financial. Winners will be informed by May 31. Contact information should also be included with each submission. There is no cost to enter but shipping and postage costs must be covered by the contestant or school. More details about the art contest can be found here.

Joe Boggs is president of the Fr. Gabriel Richard Guild and writes this article for Detroit Catholic. To join the Guild’s mission in preserving Fr. Richard’s legacy and promoting his virtuous life, visit this webpage.


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