Helping to create a kinder world through art. That's part of the purpose of the nonprofit organization, Memory Project. This is the third time over the years that Vestal High School art teacher Sean Bowers has offered his students an opportunity to make a difference in a child's life.
How the project works is each student artist receives a photo of a child in a country that the Memory Project serves. They learn just a few things about what their child likes, such as a favorite color, their age and their first name. Then, the high school students spend weeks creating portraits of the children.
Many of the children for whom the portraits are drawn are refugees, and have very few possessions. In addition to creating a memory for the child whose portrait is being done, this project creates a connection between our students and children in other countries who have faced substantial challenges.
"Giving them hope, these kids have gone through so much..." explained Olivia Muse, tenth grade, when asked why it was important to her personally to participate in the Memory Project. "We want them to feel happy and have hope when they see these portraits."
A total of 19 portraits were created by VHS sophomores who had the option of painting a personal portrait to keep themselves. Instead, these works of art will go to the Memory Project, where staff there will take them over to Malaysia and give them to the children for which they were painted. A video of the children receiving their portraits will be shared with Mr. Bowers' students later this year.
"They do work harder on these than if I just had them draw a face because this is real art going to real people," said Mr. Bowers.
Usually a donation of $10 per portrait is also collected to help defray the costs of taking the artwork back to the children in the country they are living. However, this year an anonymous donor sponsored the portrait fees at Vestal High School and other schools participating.