Tribute to the Emanuel AME Church and the Emanuel Nine - CODAworx

Tribute to the Emanuel AME Church and the Emanuel Nine

Submitted by John Aaron

Client: Charleston, SC

Location: Charleston, SC, United States

Completion date: 2017

Artwork budget: $30,000

Project Team


John Aaron


Greg Haggard

Thacher School


“Tribute to the Emanuel AME Church and the Emanuel Nine”- a glazed porcelain wall relief, mixed media, mounted on plywood, 5’4” x 3’8” x 6”. Begun June ’17; completed September ’17. It is a foreshortened point of view of the Church from Calhoun St., Charleston, SC in dual vanishing point perspective. The names of the Emanuel 9 are carved into the sidewalk of the piece; it locks onto the wall with a flush mount system. Its installation system allows it to be both portable for touring and/or permanent installation. A nondenominational ritual of blessing accompanies each installation.


I was selected because I made historic Charleston architecture out of clay and paint that had raised money for a number of worthy local causes. My history includes many commissioned portraits of architecture worldwide. The Church piece was originally commissioned by some Charleston businessmen, who wish to remain anonymous-evidently some controversy formed over the fact that it was a civil rights monument being created at the same time numerous monumental gestures glorifying the Confederacy were being removed from municipal spaces nationwide. It was initially agreed that the art was to be delivered in early September ‘17. At that time, as the art was being fitted into its custom crate for shipment, the Client called suddenly to refuse the piece, citing financial reasons. No other reason was given; they severed contact. I am still in possession of the piece. While it was on display at the Firestick Pottery, the Thomas Fire came within 400 yards of the building. This work perhaps personifies Art With A Message. It was created as a solemn memorial to the courage of the Emanuel AME Church congregation and the Fallen.


This piece was created at the Thacher School Ceramic Dept. through the Anacapa House Visiting Scholar’s Program. Gregory Haggard, Head of the Arts Dept., and Michael Mulligan, Head of School, facilitated the use of the studio and project integration into the Program. The school’s encouragement to build a piece of this level of gravitas and scale in their art space was, in itself, great inspiration. The school has a long history of including social justice in their curriculum. The school has also included CHALK4PEACE as part of their annual observation of Dr. MLK Jr Day for the better part of the last decade, a global chalk art project I founded in 2005. The online gallery that documents the sculpture’s creation is: As phantom collaborators, the businessmen who commissioned the work, have never again attempted to contact me or assist in the completion or delivery of the project.

Additional Information

I have long been an activist for peace and justice; events include an interactive CHALK4PEACE chalk painting project for Student Peace Day at the United Nations in NYC, 2016; and the interactive art part of the Peace & Justice Symposium and community healing ceremony in Ferguson, MO addressing gun violence at St. Louis Community College at Florissant Valley in 2015. My wish for the piece is for it to tour the Emanuel AME Church, the National Memorial and Legacy Museum, the Smithsonian African American Museum and the Obama Presidential Center, where it’s been submitted for consideration, and other appropriate locations.