Portrait project draws on student compassion

Senior+Riley+Nolan+works+on+her+portrait+for+the+Memory+Project.

Photo contributed by Cheryl Foote

Senior Riley Nolan works on her portrait for the Memory Project.

Izzy Swanson, Staff Writer

Junior Morgan Bell knows from experience what a powerful impact the Portrait of Kindness project has on children from around the world. 

The project is run by the non-profit Memory Project organization, which sends photographs of disadvantaged kids from around the world to high school art students. The students create portraits of the children, and the portraits are then sent to the children to keep.

The children are from Malaysia this year. 

Bell has participated in the project for the past two years and continues to do so because she believes it shines a light on the children’s situation. 

“I think it’s special, because they are kids who have been forgotten by a lot of people,” Bell said. “Having someone they don’t even know recognize them, when people around them don’t even recognize them, it makes the kids feel important.”

The project was brought to Baldwin by art teacher Cheryl Foote, who offers it to her Studio Art 3 and 4 students. The students create the portrait on their own time and are allowed to use any materials they would like. 

The kids don’t really have anything, so it gives them something that is theirs and no one can take it from them.”

— Riley Nolan

“Last year I used a charcoal pencil, and this year I used a regular graphite pencil,” Bell said of her portraits. 

It’s a special program, Foote said. 

“It’s a really neat thing, because those kids do not have any material possessions that would capture their childhood. This project lets them know that someone has been thinking about them and connecting with them, from way across the ocean,” Foote said. 

Senior Riley Nolan was offered the chance to create a portrait for the first time this year. Nolan had been looking forward to the chance to change a child’s life for the better, even in a small way.  

“The kids don’t really have anything, so it gives them something that is theirs and no one can take it from them,” Nolan said. 

Not only does the project create happiness for the kids, but it also teaches Baldwin students to be more appreciative of what they have. 

“I like doing it, because it made me feel like I was doing something good for someone other than myself,” Nolan said. 

Because the project is voluntary, it attracts kids who really want to make an impact on the world. 

“You’re doing something good for the community and that’s not for a grade or credit. You’re just doing it straight from your heart,” Bell said.