According to founder Ben Schumaker, the goal of the Memory Project is to promote intercultural understanding and kindness between children around the world.
Since its establishment in 2004, the youth arts nonprofit organization in Wisconsin has involved 300,000 youth in 55 countries.
Members of the National Art Honor Society at Hopkinton High School are among the participants.
Christine Enos, co-advisor for the Art Honor Society program, explained that it’s open to students from Grades 9-12 and encourages volunteer work, usually in art, but also in theater arts and dance.
For the fourth year, HHS advanced art students created and shared portraits and inspirational artwork with younger kids in other countries like India, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
“It is a wonderful program that connects them to children that have very different backgrounds and challenges in life,” Enos said.
The recipients often are children in places with wars, civil unrest and poverty.
After receiving photos of the kids with whom they are matched, the high school artists get to work making portraits of their likenesses. When they are finished, they share a picture of themselves on the back of the artwork, along with their name, their age and a short message.
The portraits are sent to the nonprofit, which then takes care of their distribution. Afterwards, the Memory Project (memoryproject.org) sends a video showing the students in the other country receiving their likenesses.
Enos noted that this semester, five students were involved with the project. Last year, 20 students participated.
She said that more advanced art students created portraits while “inspirational” projects generally depict the matched children’s characteristics or what they want to be when they grow up.
In addition to the enlightenment students get about children around the world, Enos said the program has other benefits.
“The students get a chance to volunteer and share their artwork and put it out in the world,” she said. The National Art Honor Society, comprised of approximately 100 HHS students, places emphasis on volunteering, whether within the school or outside of it.
In the past, the society had its art displayed in the form of a chalkboard mural in the library and at Elmwood School.
HHS junior Vienna Rivard said she was driven to participate in the project because she wanted to contribute her skills in a way that aligned with the Memory Project’s goals.
She spent more than a dozen hours creating the portrait, noting that she likes the challenge of blending the color hues and watching the artwork come to life.
Rivard said the angle of the photo from which she worked made it “challenging to produce realistic proportions” in the drawing.
However, she was pleased to volunteer in this way.
“Volunteering gives me a greater perspective, and this project helps bring people together,” Rivard said.
Freshman Cade Houlihan used an “upside-down grid method” for the first time to create the portrait and also likes volunteering. “It’s a way to give back to your community, even if it is not your own,” Houlihan said. “Small things that you would never think of can have such a significant effect on people. It’s just a nice way to bring someone happiness.”