DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Two portraits, created by UNT students to comfort children in an El Salvadoran orphanage, were selected to hang in a Washington, D.C., gallery with some of the best such portraits in the country.
Michelle King's watercolor portrait of Patricia
The portraits created by seniors Michelle King and Brendin Alban were among 50 nationwide chosen to be exhibited Feb. 7-11 in the KNEW gallery in Washington, D.C. The exhibition featured outstanding portraits made for The Memory Project, a nonprofit program in which American high school and college students create portraits of children living in orphanages around the world.
"It gave me a whole new perspective of the world," says Alban, who plans to teach after earning a degree in visual arts studies. "I was able to put a face with the culture."
King and Alban made the portraits during a "Reflective Studio Practice" class taught by Christina Bain, assistant professor of visual arts, in Fall 2006. The original portraits will be delivered to the children in El Salvador in early 2007, and enlarged copies will hang in the gallery for the exhibition. For some of these children, the portrait is one of their few or only possessions.
More than 1,000 portraits sent from across the country were reviewed for the exhibition, says Ben Schumaker, founder of the Memory Project. The selected portraits will debut at the KNEW Gallery and will later travel to other galleries and museums, still yet to be determined, he says.
"In all locations, the exhibit will help to raise awareness of the needs of children in orphanages, and it will touch the hearts of thousands of viewers," he says.
The exhibition is a testament to the students' talent, Bain says.
Brendin Alban's color pencils and markers portrait of Ana
"Our goals in the art education program at UNT are to help our students not only develop their skills as artists and teachers, but for them to understand ways in which art can make a positive difference in the world," Bain says. "Indeed, at the end of last semester, many of the students who created portraits for The Memory Project reflected that this was a very meaningful project - and that they spent a lot of extra time on the portrait because it would be a unique present for a child. My hope is that my students will become art teachers who make a positive impact in their schools, in their communities and in the world."
Using color pencils and markers, Alban spent two weeks creating a portrait of broadly smiling Ana surrounded by flowers in the brightly colored background. Alban, from Murphy, is now a student teacher in an art class at Valley Ranch Elementary School in the Coppell school district and hopes to teach elementary school after graduation.
"After working on the piece for such a long time I really felt as though I did know Ana," Alban says. "I wrote her a letter in English and Spanish and pasted it on the back, so I am hoping that I will be able to hear back from her."
King, a graduate of L.D. Bell High School in Hurst, found inspiration for her watercolor portrait of Patricia by focusing on the child's deep brown eyes. King expects to graduate from UNT in May after she completes her student teaching at Trinity High School and Hurst Hills Elementary School in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district. She wants to teach art after graduation, and she plans to have her students participate in The Memory Project.
"You're bringing in real world concepts," King says. "They can see how art speaks about the world and how they can interact with it. It exposes them to a world outside their normal environment, and it ties in different areas of your life with art."
The Memory Project was featured in September on the "CBS Evening News with Katie Couric" as Schumaker, of Wisconsin, delivered portraits to Nicaraguan children. Several UNT portraits created in Spring 2006 were among those delivered.
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