, 2014

Lancaster art students create
portraits for exchange project

by Audrey Thomasson

LANCASTER—El Salvador is some 3,200 miles from Lancaster. But distance doesn’t matter for 10 disadvantaged children who now have a connection with the county through special keepsakes created by students at Lancaster High School (LHS).

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From left, Lancaster High School art students Christopher Palmer, Alexis Smith, Jolena Towles and Ariana March hold photographs of disadvantaged Philippine children they will use to create portraits this semester. The artistic renderings will be delivered to the children through the national Memory Project initiative to help bolster children’s sense of identity and self-worth around the world.

The Central American kids have faced a number of hardships in their short lives and have few personal things to call their own, according to LHS art teacher Shauna McCranie. Many live in residential orphanages, although they may not be orphaned. In fact, many are there for reasons of abuse, neglect or simply because their families live in extreme poverty and are unable to care for them.

While the orphanages take care of their basic needs such as food and shelter, many children have little confidence and low self-esteem, said McCranie. Few have mementos of their childhood.

McCranie introduced her art classes to the children through the Memory Project, an organization that matches art students with children in need around the world. As a class project, each student creates a portrait of a child.

“The purpose of portraits is to provide them with a special memory of their youth,” said McCranie.

The project also provides an opportunity for students to open their hearts to children who have endured hardships and to promote the value of sharing kindness with others, she said.

McCranie’s students received 8-inch-by-10-inch photographs of children from El Salvador and spent hours of classroom and personal time creating portraits.

“They took pictures by phone or tablet so they could work at home,” she added.

However, getting the finished art to the child is not the end of the project. McCranie’s students received pictures of each child holding their portrait and watched video interviews of what the portraits meant to them.

“It was nice to draw for people over there,” said LHS junior Jolena Towles.

Juinior Alexis Smith said the experience gave her a connection to someone far away. “They’ll always have the portrait. It makes you appreciate what you have.”

“Seeing joy on people’s face makes you happy,” said sophomore Christopher Palmer, a Jamaican attending LHS. “Seeing them holding my art in their hands is truly a joy for me.”

“It was very inspiring to do,” said sophomore Ariana Marsh, who created an artistic rendering for her student.

The art class’s involvement in the Memory Project was partially funded through donations from Rappahannock Foundation for the Arts and the Rappahannock Art League. While those funds diminished this year, McCranie said participation costs increased to $150 for 10 portraits.

To help keep Lancaster’s involvement going with a donation to the Memory Project, contact McCranie at the school by calling 462-5177.

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