Art & Culture
Cooper Art Students Make Positive Impact Across the Globe Through ‘Memory Project’
THE WOODLANDS, TX – #JCSstaysafeandcreate. This hashtag, created by The John Cooper School art students for social media posts last summer, echoed their desire to keep themselves, and others, engaged in art while being asked to stay at home during the pandemic. In early February, the students received a follow-up to one of their outreach projects, in the form of a video.
After implementing a rock project at the end of last school year, seniors Abby Prettyman and Tori Osmond, co-presidents of the Cooper chapter of the National Art Honor Society, entered the summer months of 2020 looking for a way to extend their reach to others through art. They embraced an idea suggested by faculty sponsor Deborah Arnold to participate in a program of The Memory Project.
Established in 2004, The Memory Project promotes intercultural awareness, friendship and kindness between children around the world through the universal language of art. The Portrait Program, one of three programs the Project hosts, makes it possible for high school art students to create portraits as special gifts for children around the world; some live in refugee camps, others have lost their families, and others live in severe poverty. To date, over 160,000 portraits have been created for children in 55 countries since the inception of the program.
2020 was the first year Cooper art students participated in The Memory Project. Under Arnold’s guidance, Prettyman and Osmond were joined by fellow members of the Class of 2021 Katarina Endom, Kirthi Chandra, Nancy Lee and Liz Liner, and current sophomore Tya Gonsalves.
After deciding to connect with young girls between the ages of 9 and 17 in Afghanistan, each Cooper artist received a digital image of the young girl, along with information regarding their age, a favorite color and other minor details to help inspire them.
Arnold, who participated with students and The Memory Project at her previous school, asked for the portraits to be created using 2-D mediums such as paint or colored pencil.
The Cooper art students thoroughly enjoyed the project. “I’m glad Mrs. Arnold shared this opportunity with us because it is a unique way to connect to the global community creatively,” Osmond said.
Arnold mailed the portraits to The Memory Project on July 1 to be distributed to the children in Afghanistan. Although typically they would hear back within a few months, due to the current pandemic Arnold received word back from project coordinators in late January that all portraits from the 2020 program had been delivered.
“We were sent a video from The Memory Project that showed the 2020 distribution in three countries and our portraits can be seen on the video,” Arnold said. “It’s incredibly heartwarming, especially to see the reactions of the children.”
The video was especially meaningful to the student artists. “It’s so wonderful to apply what you’ve learned to a real world scenario,” Gonsalves said. “Through the Memory Project, I used my art to spread happiness!”
Liner is now eager to participate in the project again. “I loved the video so much, I couldn’t stop smiling while watching it,” she said. Osmond agreed, saying the video made her feel connected to the children even though they live across the globe.
“Participating in the Memory Project was such a great experience, and it became a lot more real after watching the kids’ reactions in the video,” Prettyman said. “We’re planning to participate again in the coming months and I’m excited to contribute another portrait.”
The Memory Project website explains the importance of the process this way: “Every child who receives a portrait has a different story. One thing all children have in common is that they are either facing or overcoming difficult challenges and they inspire us with their courage and resilience. Creating portraits for them is our artistic way of showing support and honoring their strength.”
The John Cooper School is a PK-12 independent, college preparatory day school that has been serving The Woodlands and greater Houston area since 1988.
For more information, visit www.johncooper.org.