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Memory Project reveals the healing power of art


June 16, 2016 -- Marcellus High School art students learned this year that their work can be so much more than beautiful or evocative. It can also be transformative, global ... and kind.

Art teachers Nathan Caza, Tara Charles and Donna de Monte introduced their classes to the Memory Project, a nonprofit organization that uses art to build a bridge between American art students and children around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents and extreme poverty.

The Marcellus students learned that “art can have a positive social effect,” Ms. de Monte told Board members.

Last fall, Ms. Charles, Ms. de Monte and Mr. Caza distributed color photographs of Ethiopian orphans to 35 Marcellus students enrolled in classes across the art department. Their challenge: Use the images to create portraits in the medium of their choosing. The spectacular results—drawings, paintings and sketches—were then placed in protective plastic sleeves and shipped to their subjects.

“The Memory Project made me grateful for what I have in my life and sad, too, for how unfortunate kids are in other countries,” freshman Emma Hutchings said. “It makes you want to go to Ethiopia and help.”


The Memory Project captured the delivery of the portraits in Ethiopia in a video that shows the children awestruck and jubilant as they clasp their personalized pieces of art (see video below).



“Many of these children don’t have photographs of themselves,” Mr. Caza told Board of Education members during their May 17 meeting, when the video was screened. “Some of them have never even seen a photograph of themselves. You can see in the video how much it meant to them.”

Reproductions of the portraits have been on display in the high school library. A poster explains that portraits are intended to ”help the children feel valued and important, to know that many people care about their well-being and to act as meaningful pieces of personal history in the future.”

But the Ethiopians were not the only ones affected by the experience.

“It was fun to know I was helping someone out using my artistic ability, and drawing kids from a different culture brought diversity to my portfolio,” senior Rebekah Herold said.


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