During our spring term in Florence, Italy, four of my IB Visual Arts students (Galek, Lisa, Samaya, and Natascha) volunteered to create portraits of disadvantaged youth for the non-profit organization Memory Project. Founded in 2004 and based out of Wisconsin, Memory Project invites teachers and art students from around the world to create portraits of children who have faced or are currently facing substantial challenges, such as abuse and poverty. Besides being fun gifts for the children to receive, these portraits help raise their subjects’ self esteem and provide them with a sense of value. During their critical formative and adolescent years, these portraits also serve as a reminder of how many people care about the subjects’ wellbeing.
I’ll put this in my room so I can see it all the time. -Portrait recipient, Peru
The project also benefited our Visual Arts students by increasing their global awareness. In this case, about the circumstances surrounding food, clothing, and shelter for many school age children in Peru. It was upon finding out that Peru was the first term of our 2016-17 school year that Memory Project director and founder Ben Schumaker deliberately matched our students up with Peruvian recipients.
Abel by Lisa
Alexandra painted by Natascha
While we were still in Italy and before our students began creating these portraits, Memory Project sent us a bit of contextual knowledge regarding Peru together with recent photos of the four portrait recipients. This proved to be a fantastic educational opportunity, as it gave our art students a chance to see their subjects firsthand and learn about life in a country they would soon visit. Armed with this knowledge, their photograph, and a paintbrush, each student set to work creating their Memory Project portrait.
Aldair painted by Galek Y.
Yubisca by Samaya P.
Over the summer break, Ben and his team delivered our portraits alongside others to locations throughout Peru. As an added bonus for our participants, the Memory Project team filmed themselves delivering our paintings and shared the subjects’ excited reactions via a heartfelt video file, which you can view below. To protect the children’s identity, they remain anonymous.
Take part in a Memory Project today
If you or your art students are interested in participating in a project of your own, visit https://memoryproject.org/ to learn more.