Art & Culture
Creating a Kinder World Through Art
By Alena Moreira
Volume 1 Issue 6
March 18, 2021
Original artwork by Alena Moreira
This is the goal of the Memory Project, a nonprofit organization with the simple purpose of promoting intercultural insight and kindness between children of different social backgrounds around the world through art. Their main program, sharing the same name as the organization, involves the creation of photographic or realistic portraits of children involved in the program. These children are often in orphanages, refugee camps, or similar situations, so the Memory Projects seeks to gift the children a little keepsake – a little memory – to give them something beautiful and personal to hold onto despite the difficulties they face in their lives. One could argue that the money and effort put into making these portraits would be better spent on living necessities, such as food and water, rather than marks on paper, and they might be right. However, we cannot underestimate the power of a simple act of kindness, even something as small as a drawing made with the happiness of only one person in mind.
The process of making a memory project portrait is simple and straightforward. Teachers who reach out to The Memory Project organization are shown the children and countries that are involved and can choose a group based on if its timeframe works well with the teacher’s and their students’ schedules. Once a country is chosen, The Memory Project emails (postal mail, before covid) individual photos of the children, which include their name, age, and favorite color. Students then choose one (or more) of the children to make a portrait of. These portraits are all 2D media, including pencil, pastel, and even painting, and must be on 9”x12” paper or unstretched canvas. When finished, the art students write the child’s ID code and name, attach a photo of themselves and write their name with little message to the back of their drawing, along with an outline of their hand to symbolically touch the hand of the child who receives the portrait. These portraits are then sent off with a requested $15 per portrait; however, classes who cannot afford this contribution are still accommodated so they can participate, as the organization’s goal is to include as many artists as possible despite the financial struggles they may face.
Started in 2004, The Memory Project portraits are a high level or advanced project, meaning the students who participate must be talented enough to make highly realistic portraits. While art is accepting to people of all styles and abilities, the reality of the program is that the children involved wouldn’t like to receive a beginner-level drawing of themselves or an abstract interpretation of what they look like while their friend receives a photorealistic and expertly drawn portrait. However, The Memory Project offers another program for artists K-12 and of all artistic levels. Called the Art Exchange, this peacebuilding program involves a one-to-one exchange between American students and kids from culturally different countries, including Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, and Nigeria.
Check out our North Star Gallery (the Artwork tab at the top of the page) to see past and current submissions to the Memory Project. North’s Art Honor Society has sent portraits to Malaysia and Venezuela, and is currently sending portraits to kids in Cameroon, a country in Central and West Africa.