The Memory Project at RHS

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Every year Mr. Levinson’s Visual Arts III/Portfolio Development class has the opportunity to work with a nonprofit organization called the Memory Project. This organization invites art teachers and students to create portraits for children from all around the world who have faced many challenges, such as the loss of their parents, war, violence, poverty, and neglect. Through the gift of art, these children are shown that they are valued and important, and that someone from across the world cares about them. In Mr. Levinson’s class, each student is randomly assigned a child to create a portrait for. We are given their picture along with their name, their favorite color, and their age and charged with the task of capturing them through art.

This year the Memory Project asked the class to create portraits for children living in Puerto Rico. After the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017, many children were left without their parents, their homes, and some of their most cherished possessions. Through this project, I realized how fortunate I am to be living in a town like Ramsey. The girl, Shelanies, whose portrait I had the opportunity to paint, is an orphan who is eight years old and whose favorite color is turquoise. I chose to use watercolors because I wanted to challenge myself and practice using that medium that I hadn’t had much experience using at that point. During the project, I learned new techniques using watercolor, how to give the allusion of blending by layering shades of color, and how to create the effect of hair using the medium.

This portrait was one of my favorite projects I have worked on in my high school art career. Not only did we get the opportunity to develop new skills and learn how to create realistic portraits, but we are able to provide children less fortunate than ourselves with a special memory they can keep for the rest of their lives. The day we got to watch the video of the children receiving their portraits was an amazing experience. Seeing the children’s eyes light up when they receive their portraits, seeing that something you have created just for them has brought them happiness, is an extraordinary feeling. Being able to give children whose lives have been turned upside-down by misfortune something to smile about shows me that even the smallest can impact another person’s life. This project has taught me that it is important to do what we can to help people, no matter how small we think it is.

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