Buchanan students seek to share kindness with refugee children through art

BUCHANAN — Buchanan High School students spent weeks hand crafting personalized portraits of children across the globe in an effort to spread kindness.

For the first time ever, art teacher Sandra Miller offered students in her art classes the option take part in an international effort called the Memory Project, a nonprofit that partners with children’s charities. Through the effort, artists are connected with children who face challenges, like war and poverty, and given the opportunity to draw their portrait.

Miller said she hope her students’ portraits help to make in an impact.

“They specialize in spreading kindness through portraits. When the children receive the portrait, the idea is that the portrait helps to signify that their lives matter,” Miller said. “The portrait helps to spread global awareness about these situations that some of these children are in.”

Buchanan High School students received pictures of children in a refugee camp in Rakhine, Myanmar. The photos also contained a little about the children, including their age and favorite color. They were then tasked with using the child’s photo to create a portrait. Once completed, the art will be sent to the children.

Ten total portraits were created by the students and by Miller. Because the children in the camp are also learning English, their portraits will also contain a short message from each artist, too. 

Sophomore Abby Baker drew two portraits for the project. When the children receive the art, Baker said she hopes they feel moved by students’ drawings to tears of joy or laughter.

Nik McCllen, a junior, also took part in the project, hoping that it shows that someone took the time to create the gift. 

“They are getting a customized portrait of themselves,” McCllen said. “There is nothing more personal than a portrait of your own face.”

Miller said she encouraged this project, because it was in line with their curriculum to create a portrait and offered students a unique opportunity.

“I thought that this time of year would be a nice time to introduce a more global project to students,” Miller said. “They had the option of choosing the Memory Project if they wanted to.”

Miller also invited members of the high school’s art club to get involved. Anita Gillette, a 10th-grader, took the opportunity and created a pencil drawing of one of the children.

The students said they put many hours into their individual projects, each portrait containing a signature style. McCllen created a portrait from watercolor and used a shade of monochrome red, which was inspired by the child’s favorite color. For her part, Baker filled the background of her portraits with characters like “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “The Cat and the Hat.” Gillette said she chose to use pencil because it is her strongest art medium.

The students said the project helped them to hone their artistic skills and a fresh perspective.

Miller said she enjoys giving her students different opportunities for using their artistic talents. She said she is considering offering the project again to next year’s students.

“I think it is an important project,” Miller said. “It gives students perspective on all lives. I can’t imagine being a kid living in a refugee camp.”

To learn more about the Memory Project, visit memoryproject.org.

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