Baldwin art students participate in The Memory Project
Khin Lwin never met the young boy living in a disadvantaged situation in Peru.
Still, he wanted to draw a portrait of the boy, in hopes of showing the child that someone cared about him.
“I did it because I wanted to make art for the kids, so they have a picture to hang on their walls and know that someone is thinking about them,” said Lwin, 18, of Whitehall, who himself was born into a refugee camp in Thailand, where he lived until coming to the United States in 2010.
“It was hard,” said Lwin, who said he enjoyed helping others in need through his artwork.
Lwin and his classmates in studio art three and four classes at Baldwin High School created 15 portraits in all for children in Peru through “The Memory Project — Portraits of Kindness.”
The goal of the nonprofit “The Memory Project,” developed by Ben Schumaker in 2004, is for art teachers and students, along with solo artists, to “help cultivate global kindness by creating portraits for children around the world who have faced substantial challenges,” according to its website. The children could have suffered through war, violence or natural disasters.
Baldwin High School art teacher Cheri Foote recalls receiving a postcard about the program in 2010. She gets a lot of mail, but there was something about this program that stood out.
She made it voluntary for her students to participate that year and it took off.
“It’s kind of become this right of passage,” she said.
Students at Baldwin know if they make it to studio art three and four, they will have a chance to do the portraits. That’s something they look forward to, Foote said.
“They’re so into it. It’s just a really neat thing,” she said.
A 2011 Baldwin graduate loved the project so much that she has continued doing it on her own. She now has done 34 portraits for the program, Foote said.
Each year, Foote makes the project voluntary. Some students want to do one portrait. Others do two or three.
They do them on their own, sometimes during extra class time, other times after school.
Each student chooses their medium.
All they’re given is a picture of a child and maybe their favorite color. For some students at Baldwin, the portraits come easily. Others gain skills as they go.
Students are taught portrait work in studio art two, so they come in equipped with the skills needed to get started.
Jayla Wicks, 18, who graduated from Baldwin this year, said drawing makes her happy. Each of her pieces includes a part of her, she said.
Last year, she did the portrait of a boy in Haiti. This year, she had two girls: One she did in pen, the other in digital, using an app on her phone to sketch the girl’s face. Her hope is that the portraits inspire the kids receiving them to try art.
“Whatever hardships they’re going through, maybe doing some art will help get their mind off of it,” said Wicks, of Baldwin Township.
Lwin, who has been drawing since 11 or 12 years old and graduated from Baldwin this year, said he started drawing as a way to express his feelings.
The project helped him learn how to improve his blending, he said.
The art from Baldwin is making its way to Peru. Students submitted their work mid-May, Foote said.
Once the portraits have been distributed, Baldwin students will receive a video where they can watch the children’s reactions to their gifts.
Since school is out, Foote will share the video with her students on Google Classroom.
She hopes they’ve learned something through the project.
“I really try to instill in the students that community service is so important. Giving back is so important,” Foote said. “Even the simplest thing can really just change somebody’s day, week or year.”