Given that children in such situations often have few personal keepsakes, the purpose of the portraits is to provide them with a special memory of their youth, to honor their heritage and identity, and to help them build a positive self-image, according to the Memory Project website. The site goes on to say that the project also provides an opportunity for young Americans to open their hearts to children who have endured many hardships, and to promote the value of sharing kindness with others.
To do this, the students receive photos of children who are waiting for portraits, and then work in their art classroom to create the portraits. Once finished, the Memory Project delivers the portraits to the children. “Later this year, we look forward to getting a photo of a smiling child, with the actual portrait in hand,” stated Barry Shields, adjunct instructor of the art course who is overseeing the project on campus. Students participating in the project include Brianna Clark, Dara Trail, Brittany Emerick and Sara Payo. This is the second year that Penn State Greater Allegheny students are participating in the project and will be creating portraits for four children in the Dominican Republic. “This project puts us in a global state of mind and provides an emotional charge to our drawing session," stated Shields.
The Memory Project is a program of the nonprofit organization My Class Cares based in Madison, Wis. Since the project began in 2004, more than 30,000 portraits have been produced by art students around the country.