Memory Project: giving back to children in need

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Over the course of the next two months, eight select Portfolio Prep students at Northwood will participate in the Memory Project by painting portraits of children from the Philippines. The Memory Project is a program funded by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) that allows novice artists, advanced artists and teachers to create art for disadvantaged youth.

Visual arts teacher Kimberly Rohrs initiated the project at Northwood when the Memory Project reached out to her last year. In order to give the students at the school pictures of the subjects they will be painting, she coordinates with Memory Project photographers and outreach leaders, who take pictures of the subjects in the Philippines and send the photos to Rohrs and her students. The artists utilize the pictures they send to create authentic, realistic portraits of their subjects so that they can gift the children their own unique pieces of art.

The students have the choice of creating their portrait with oil painting, acrylic painting or watercolor. Senior Nadia Farooq used acrylic painting and chose her picture because the way the child “looked at the camera was really enhancing.”

“Having the girl in the picture have that portrait can also expose her to art and different things in the world,” Farooq said. “I hope I can make her feel special by creating something just for her.”

Rohrs had her Portfolio Prep students research life in the Philippines to learn more about Filipino culture, including symbols and everyday activities.

“We’re trying to incorporate something about the Filipino culture in the background so it connects back to their hometown,” sophomore Emily Yu said.

As an educator, Rohrs’ goal in giving her students the opportunity to participate in the project is ultimately to allow her students to discover the meaning in helping others by creating art. Through the project, not only do the subjects receive portraits that allow them to feel supported and and valued, they also receive monetary relief from UNICEF to help them and their families.

“I hope to teach students that their art transcends beyond the classroom through charity and outreach programs,”  Rohrs said. “I want them to be more thoughtful of why they create what they create.”