Thomasville, GA - The portraits currently exhibited until June 13 in the Grass Roots Coffee Company in downtown Thomasville were painted by 15 Brookwood School artists in grades 9-12.
Art teacher Maureen Harrer said that the portraits will be delivered by The Memory Project to the children in Rwanda whose faces are depicted in the oil, acrylic and colored pencil artworks. The pictures are of orphans who own few, if any, personal belongings.
“In many countries, only wealthy people get their portraits done, so this makes the children feel very special,” explained Harrer. “This is something to remind them of their childhood, giving them a sense of identity and self-worth, because they don’t have photographs like we do.”
Ben Schumaker, who runs The Memory Project, primarily as a one-man operation out of Sun Prairie, Wis., takes pictures of individual children and teens around the world who have been orphaned, neglected, or disadvantaged. He sends the photos to art teachers, who volunteer to recruit student artists to create the portraits. Schumaker then delivers the artwork to the children and takes photos of them holding their portraits, so that the students who created the works can see the final product in the hands of the subjects of their pictures.
“This is Brookwood’s 5th year of working with The Memory Project, and we’d like to make the community aware of this charity and try to get other high school art teachers to get their students involved,” Harrer said. “We’d like to have a larger number of portraits going out of Thomasville and nearby communities.”
Previously, Brookwood students produced portraits of children from Haiti, the Philippines, Sierra Leone and Uganda. Since Brookwood has a community service requirement for Upper School students, they produce the portraits voluntarily outside of class and receive service credit for part of their time.
One of the Rwanda portraits on display is by Emily Drew, who will be a senior in the fall. She painted a portrait of an orphan in Haiti last year. When she saw the photo of the child holding her painting, she said, “I was elated when I saw the big grin on his face, and he looked so thrilled that someone took the time to do a portrait of him.”
Another painting exhibited is by Emily’s sister, Kathryn Drew, who just graduated from Brookwood and will enroll in Samford University.
“After seeing my sister work on her orphan portrait last year, I thought that it was such a neat project,” Kathryn said. “I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to do one this year, especially with portraits being so highly esteemed in Africa. It feels great to be able to give a child something so special.”
Schumaker says the goal of the Memory Project “is to inspire caring, global friendship, and a positive sense of self.”
For more information, see www.thememoryproject.org or contact Maureen Harrer by e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org or at Brookwood, 226-8070.