High school art students bring children’s portraits to life

In our career-driven world, art is often disregarded as a trivial practice, but as 25 Sonoma Valley High School artists and 25 orphans in India know, art can be life-changing.

“It’s hard to say who got the most enjoyment out of this project, the kids or my students,” said Owen Tuttle, art teacher who promoted the project.

Portraits were made by 25 individualized study students (advanced art students), along with select other participants, as an act of kindness towards children on the other side of the globe.

“It’s pretty cool that they get to have something,” said participant Hans Olsen, a junior at SVHS. As Tuttle explained, “In India only the wealthy or celebrities get their portrait done, so the portraits make them feel prestigious.”

The portraits were part of the Memory Project, an international movement to provide orphans or traumatized children with portraits of themselves. These portraits contribute to the poverty-stricken children’s sense of self-worth and identity.

“Children who have nothing feel like they have someone who cares about them,” said Eryka Sanchez, SVHS senior and art student.

Artists made several drafts before producing the final image. “The portraits were a process,” Tuttle said. “The students began with a black and white sketch, then a color scheme, then the finished copy. I wanted the finished product to be really nice for the kids.”

The program was inspired at SVHS because of Mrs. Feuer’s empty bowls project, a program that aims to eliminate hunger through art, which motivated Tuttle to reach out for other ways to use art to contribute to the community at large.

Students were exceedingly enthusiastic about participating, reported Tuttle, “My students were really intrigued – they really got into it!”

David Donnelley, economics teacher, sponsored the project at SVHS. He made his contribution in the name of the Plein Air Society, a national organization that supports outdoor painting and holds an annual local festival.

In the future, Tuttle would like to increase the number of portraits done while still requiring the high quality. “It’s really about the kids,” he said.


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