Alexander Twilight.

MONTPELIER, VT – Middlebury artist Katie Runde has been selected to paint a large-scale portrait for the Vermont State House of Alexander Twilight, an important early Vermont educatorand minister. Twilight is believed to be the first American legislator of African descent.“I am honored to be commissioned to paint such an important figure, “Ms. Runde said, “both in terms of Vermont’s enterprising, progressive past and how we now choose to model our future.”Mr. Twilight was a forward-thinking teacher and minister, beloved by his students, and today he is recognized as an important early Vermonter. His portrait was co-commissioned by the Friends and the office of State Curator David Schutz to honor Twilight’s achievements and character. The cost of the portrait will be covered by a generous grant from the National Life Group of Vermont.For several years, the Friends of the Vermont State House and Schutz have had Twilight on a short list of possible portrait commissions. It’s part of a larger plan to broaden the representationin the State House of women and people of color. “It is the edifice that represents our government, and all Vermonters need to feel connected to it,” Schutz said.Mr. Twilight was a man of remarkable accomplishments. Born in Corinth, Vt. in 1795, he rose above his childhood status as an indentured servant to attend and graduate from Middlebury College in 1823. Middlebury claims him as the first American of African descent to graduate from college.He devoted his life to education, moving to Brownington in 1829 where he became the principal of the Orleans County Grammar School and the pastor of the Brownington Congregational Church. Both institutions flourished under his leadership, and in 1836, he built an imposing, four-story granite schoolhouse and dormitory that still dominates the hilltop village of Brownington. Twilight called it “Athenian Hall,” and today it is owned by the Orleans County Historical Society and is known as The Old Stone House. That same year, Twilight was elected to represent Brownington in the Vermont Legislature.Ms. Runde was selected from a field of 18 talented artists who applied for the commission after plans for the portrait were announced last year. A special committee of the Friends and the State Curator’s Office based their selection on Ms. Runde’s outstanding skills as a portraitist, and what the selection committee saw as her ability to capture the essence of her subjects and bring them to life.Ms. Runde, 35, has lived in Vermont for the past 10 years. She is a realist painter and portraitist working primarily in oils. A lifelong artist, she apprenticed under realist painter Evan Wilson of Hoosick Falls, N.Y. She has a degree in folklore/ethnography from University College, Cork, Ireland, and an M.A. in religious studies from the University of Chicago Divinity School. She is a candidate for local ordination in the Episcopal Diocese of Vermont.Creating the portrait is expected to take at least a year. (Read more in The Newport Daily Express)

Recommended for you