Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Fayette County Art Students Create Memories for Orphaned Children

Advanced high school art students and teachers from throughout the Fayette County School System are creating lifelong keepsakes for orphaned children in Ecuador.

A total of 35 students and teachers are participating in the Memory Project, a nationwide initiative in which advanced art students create original portraits for children living in orphanages around the world.

Given that children who have been abandoned, orphaned, abused or neglected usually have few personal keepsakes, the purpose of the portraits is to provide them with a special memory of their youth, to honor their heritage and identity and help them build a positive self-image. The project also provides an opportunity for the high school students to open their hearts to children who have endured many hardships and to promote the value of sharing kindness with others.

Here’s how the project works. Art students receive pictures of children who are waiting for portraits and then work in their art classes to create the portraits. Once finished, the Memory Project organization delivers the portraits to the children and then the children are invited to create drawings or write letters to send back to the art students.

Although the program is for advanced high school art students, the county’s art teachers decided to participate in an effort to put a spotlight on the school system’s visual arts program.

“One of our art teachers heard about the project and sent me the information. This seemed like the perfect venue to promote visual art in Fayette County while simultaneously doing something good for underprivileged children around the world,” says Melissa Raymer, Fayette County’s visual art contact.

The portraits created by the students and teachers will go to children in orphanages in the cities of Quito and Cuenca, Ecuador. Before the artwork is sent, the portraits will be galleried in the media center of Fayette County High for one week starting December 2.

Both students and teachers say that participating in the project has deepened their appreciation for the people they have in their lives and has taught them that the best gift they can give is of their time and talent.

“Fayette County High School students and I felt the project was a rewarding experience in that we gave a little part of ourselves through our individual creativity to someone who we hope will cherish it, almost like a long-distance hug,” says Pamela Woodworth-Watkins, visual arts teacher at Fayette County High.

The Memory Project is a nonprofit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. This is the fourth year of operation and already more than 10,000 portraits have been produced by high school students around the country.

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