Impactful PortraitsPosted by Krissy Ponden
The Memory Project is one of the most impactful and important projects that 8th graders do in visual arts. This year, our 5th participating in the project, we were given photos of 25 children in Cameroon who are living with the violence that has erupted in their country because of the ongoing Anglophone Crisis or Cameroonian Civil War. In addition to their portraits, this year the children also were asked to describe themselves in three words and what they wanted to be in the future. The qualities they chose were things such as “intelligent, hardworking, and determined,” and many dreamed of a future in healthcare or teaching. This information added to our understanding of these children and helped us paint a rich picture of their lives, both actually and theoretically. The Memory Project asks students to paint portraits of children who are living in challenging situations around the world as a way to spread kindness through art. Painting a portrait is an intimate process, and my students cultivate a connection to their subject over a period of several weeks of deep observation. It is a gift for the recipients, but also for my students to feel empathy and learn how to humanize communities that are frequently reduced to a news story or an unimaginable number. We take the time to learn about their struggles, but also the richness of their culture. It is truly an authentic learning experience for everyone. After the portraits are delivered to the children, The Memory Project sends us a video compilation of the children’s reactions to these personal gifts. The huge smiles on their faces makes the challenge of portrait painting worth it. We look forward to seeing this year’s video and participating in the project again next year.
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