President Obama Dips in Approval Ratings, but Portrait Still Inspires

By Gorman Gorman

Dec 15, 2009 2:35pm

ABC News' Kim Berryman reports:

For many of his erstwhile supporters, President Obama's image as almost an American savior is a distant memory, overshadowed by health-care battles and troop allocations, unemployment numbers and myriad disappointments.  For at least one artist in a struggling community in the nation's capital, however, the nation's first black president and his family continue to be a powerful muse. Just blocks from the White House at the Gospel Rescue Ministries (GRM) homeless shelter in downtown Washington, a mural featuring a heroic portrait of the First Family is displayed prominently in the lobby, painted last fall by Ethiopian artist Mekbib Gebertasadik and depicting Mr. and Mrs. Obama, Sasha, Malia and even Bo, as a representation of hope and progress.
Titled "From Menelik I to Obama," the mural draws a connection between Menelik I, son of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheeba, and the 44th U.S. President. The two figures are visually linked through numerous depictions of historical icons and civil rights leaders."Primarily, the clients we serve are African American and [the mural is] an inspiration to our clients of being able to dream" said Earl Murray, Associate Director for Development and Marketing for Gospel Rescue Ministries.

The faith -based shelter and drug treatment facility where the mural is displayed aims to treat their clients "physically, mentally and spiritually." When the 103 year old organization approached Gebertasadik about his paintings the artist thought the shelter would be an appropriate venue for his large, two wall mural.

"When you see good people doing hard work you get inspired to be like them so you can concentrate and work instead of abuse yourself with drug or drink" Gebertasadik explained.

In the mural, the President is looking off into the distance Gebertasadik says, as a way of saying "look beyond, look further, look to your future, and make it… stronger." 

To the President's right, the artist painted First Lady Michelle Obama.  In a written description of the piece, Gebertasadik writes, Michelle is "equally determined for the good deed and she is one and the same with [President Obama,] one soul into different bodies."

The painting is awash with icons, subtle symbols and overt messages from the artist.  In Michelle Obama, Gebertasadik, who emigrated from Ethiopia in 2001, portrays his dream.

"My dream, in the country in which I live now…is to see equality between the sexes. I am going to see a woman president and I do not think it will take that long" he said.

Though the electorate looks to the future with looming questions regarding healthcare and job numbers, the sitting leader and his family have not lost their power to inspire.

 At the Gospel Rescue Ministries, Murray says the clients have" been on the street and they're at their last chance of hope." Now, with the entry way mural of President Obama and others, "when they walk in… they can see that opportunity that they can get well and bring about change."
Change some still believe in.-ABC News' Kim Berryman  

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