In 2011, just before the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Richard Sean Manning had a stroke of inspiration.
The Lockport artist and entrepreneur, who retired at age 40 from his job as an executive at a Florida technology company, decided to create one original artwork for each of the approximately 3,000 victims of the attacks.
Manning is now more than halfway to his goal, having painted about 1,900 pieces on 22-by 30-inch pieces of paper. He sells them through a website he runs with his wife, Laura, and contributes 66 percent of the proceeds to charities chosen by the buyer. The site claims to have the "potential of raising over $400 million for worthy causes."
"Every one that I do is a joy," Manning said in a phone interview on Thursday about his 9/11 paintings, many of which feature patriotic themes and all of which feature bright, bold colors. "Everything means something."
Manning's work also is featured in the National September 11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, where his donated ceramic sculpture of the Twin Towers is on permanent display. And a recent Manning painting, titled "One Family Flag," which he created as a gift for former September 11 Museum CEO Joe Daniels, is now part of merchandise the museum sells in its gift shop to raise money for its operations.
Manning said his work is meant to highlight the feeling of community that was fractured on 9/11.
"Most people see the towers as these great, steel, faceted buildings, but the beauty comes from within. The community of people that were in those buildings, it was vast," he said. "In all my paintings that I do of it, I depict a big door and windows showing the towers as a community."
Beyond raising money for charity, Manning said he hopes his work has an effect on the hearts of those who see it.
"What we're really trying to create with all of this is a unity between people," he said. "Soften your heart a little bit, man. Make it so that you can accept other people's beliefs, religions, and truly be OK with it and get on with your life."