Not even the COVID-19 worldwide pandemic can keep Huntington High School’s Art Honor Society down. Members of the organization recently completed a project that involved creating 26 stunning portraits of children and teenagers living in orphanage homes in Russia and Eastern European countries that were once states of the former Soviet Union.
The Art Honor Society members teamed up with the Memory Project, a charitable non-profit organization that encourages art teachers and their students to develop and donate portraits to youth around the world “who have faced substantial challenges, such as violence, disasters, extreme poverty, neglect and loss of parents,” states the group’s website.
“We want the portraits to help the children feel valued and important, to know that many people care about their well-being and to act as meaningful pieces of personal history in the future,” according to the organization. “For the art students, we want this to be an opportunity to creatively practice kindness and global awareness.”
The Huntington High School student-artists who created the portraits include Brooke Biernacki, Kianna Criscuola, Elizabeth Dugan, Naysa Escobar, Josie Fasolino, Natalie Furman, Caroline Hartough, Christina Hornstein, Angelina Larkin, Baylie Larsen, Vivienne LaVertu, Bianca Lella, Shyann Maragh, Emily Plachta, Jessica Quintanilla, Daniela Ramos, Julia Segal, Sarah Siegel, Steli Vlahos, and Holly Wright. Niurca Chabla-Leon, Jazlyn Chapas-Oliva, and Erik Flores created two portraits each.
“Every year Art Honor Society members create portraits of children from other countries for The Memory Project, an international youth arts organization,” said high school art teacher Kim Valerio, who serves as the Huntington group’s faculty advisor. “They coordinate high school art students throughout the USA to create portraits for children living in refugee camps, orphanages and similar situations around the world. The portraits are a once in a lifetime gift for the children who receive them.”
Over the past 16 years, the Memory Project organization has created over 160,000 portraits for children in 55 countries.
“The Memory Project provided us with color prints of each child to work from,” Ms. Valerio said. “They also informed us of each child’s favorite color, in case our student artists wanted to include the color somewhere in the clothing or background.”
The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing school closure delayed completion of the portraits, “but the students were able to eventually get them done and the results are amazing,” Ms. Valerio said. “I am very proud of the Art Honor Society students who worked on this project. The portraits are beautiful!”