Imagine if you were a child living in bombed and burned out ruins without any of life’s basic essentials like running water, heat, electricity, and emergency healthcare? The statistics are staggering. Since its inception in 2011, five different warring factions in Syria’s Civil War have produced nearly 11 million refugees — that’s 1.5 million more people than live in the metropolitan area of Chicago.
This fall, the Ruth Davis Design Gallery is organizing The Memory Project: Faces of Joy, an exhibition featuring 70 portraits of Syrian children living in refugee camps in Jordan.
For the past 10 years Share Price, Gifted Services coordinator at the South Central Ohio Educational Service Center in New Boston, Ohio, has coordinated local participation in this project by working with high school art teachers and their students. To date Scioto County art students have created 236 portraits for children in 10 different countries including Guatemala, Burma, Uganda, Indonesia, Ecuador, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Madagascar and Syria.
“This project is very near and dear to my heart because it is so meaningful. Our students are investing their time, effort and talent to create something of importance when they create these portraits” said Price. “They are giving a piece of themselves to someone who is in need.”
This year, local students from Clay, Oak Hill, Valley, Notre Dame, Green, West, Portsmouth, Northwest, South Webster, Sciotoville, Wheelersburg, and Minford created 36 portraits for children in Syria. Two of those — Hanna Cox and Aaron Bapst — were selected among the 70 portraits featured in the exhibit at the University of Wisconsin, Sept. 20 through Nov. 19, 2017.
“Creating portraits is challenging because there is such a responsibility in it. Portraits have such power and can convey so many emotions. Happiness, grief, pain, independence, intelligence … all of these things are somehow made visible in the human face and it becomes the artist’s responsibility to convey all of this to the viewer,” said Hanna Cox, a student in Kelly Emmons’ art class at Wheelersburg High School.
The Memory Project, based in Middleton, Wisconsin, invites art teachers and students in the United States to create and donate portraits to youths around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents, violence, and extreme poverty. Humanitarian aid agencies provide the organization with photographs and the names of the children being portrayed. The photographs are then distributed to high school art students who create portable portraits of the children. Since its founding in 2004, the Memory Project has coordinated production of more than 100,000 portraits for children in 43 countries.
“Participating in The Memory Project is one of those experiences that cause deep and thoughtful reflection; reflection on my fortunate life, and aspects of misfortune in the lives of others. Overall, The Memory Project gives hope to those who need it and creates gratitude in those who should have it – like me,” said Aaron Bapst, a student in Chris Enz’s art class at Northwest High School.
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