Local high school art students have been busy creating portraits for a national program called “The Memory Project.”
Art students, and sometimes their teachers, create original portraits for children who have been abandoned, abused or neglected in developing countries. The students receive photographs of the children which they use to create the portraits. Once finished, the portraits are delivered to the children. Photos are taken of the children receiving their portraits and those photos are returned to the student artists.
Ben Shumaker of Madison, Wisconsin, initiated The Memory Project in the fall of 2004. Inspired by his experiences in the orphanages of Guatemala, Ben’s goal is to provide orphaned children with “tangible items that will contribute to their sense of identity and personal self-worth.” In addition, these portraits connect American students with children from other countries in a meaningful exchange of friendship. To date the project has generated more than 80,000 portraits for children in 35 countries and Ben intends to keep the project going as long as possible.
This year art students and teachers participated from Green, East, Minford, New Boston, Northwest, Notre Dame, Oak Hill, Portsmouth, South Webster, Valley, West, and Wheelersburg high schools. There were a total of 31 portraits created this year.
“I always have at least two or three students do it, and for the last couple of years I’ve actually participated in it also,” said Northwest High School Art Teacher, Chris Enz. “It’s one of those giving back things. Sometimes kids want to give back and they don’t necessarily have the money. This is just one way the can use their talents to actually give back to someone who is less fortunate.”
Enz said students love the project and look forward to it each year.
“I’ve been pleased with everything I’ve gotten so far,” he said. “They tend to work really hard on it when they know a little kid is depending on their picture. It’s like gift to them, and they usually put a little bit extra heart and soul into it.”
Over the past nine years Scioto County area art students and teachers have produced 200 portraits for children in eight different countries, including Guatemala, Burma, Uganda, Indonesia, Ecuador, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Madagascar.
The South Central Ohio Educational Service Center (ESC) Gifted Service Coordinator, Sharee Price, directs the project.
“The Memory Project is my personal favorite project that I do because it is so meaningful. Even though the students have never met these children in person, they do make a connection with them,” Price said. “Student will come back to me after they’ve graduated high school and tell me that it was one of their favorite projects from high school.”
Students who created portraits will be recognized at the Opening Reception for the “Visually Literate” High School Art Show at the Southern Ohio Museum in the spring of 2016. The portraits are currently on display in the first floor showcase of the ESC, located at 522 Glenwood Ave., in New Boston, Ohio.
For more information about the South Central Ohio ESC, visit online at http://www.scoesc.org/, or follow the ESC on Facebook and Twitter.