NAHS project making international memories


Irie Sentner, Specials Editor

Many say that the function of art is to connect people, that its impact transcends language, privilege, and geographic borders. The National Art Honor Society is a group of students that are talented in the visual arts. While their duties typically involve community service in Durango and DHS, this year NAHS is partaking in a program of larger scale – an international nonprofit called The Memory Project.  

“[The] Memory Project is a nonprofit organization that invites art teachers and their students to create portraits for youth around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents, and extreme poverty,” said NAHS teacher sponsor John Burnite. “The portraits 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.  For the art students, we want this to be an opportunity to creatively practice kindness and global awareness.”

Students are sent images of the children to replicate in any artistic medium. The portraits must be small and light to ensure easy transportation in the developing areas where the children live. NAHS students then send their renditions back to The Memory Project, including a personalized note.

This program  offers an extremely meaningful experience for all parties involved. “As a student, I think the Memory Project is a way to serve other parts of the world through art. It’s amazing to have this kind of a connection to another child in a foreign country. These children have faced tough challenges that I can’t even imagine, so when I watched a video of the children receiving last year’s portraits and how it made their faces bright up, I feel like a hero,” said NAHS officer Jessica Fiala.

So. Lorien Hoshall agrees. “I personally like the memory project because it allows us to connect to kids from other countries in ways that we wouldn’t be able to otherwise,” said Hoshall.

The Memory Project allows members of NAHS to view how art can affect people on a global scale and observe that their artistic practices are truly meaningful. “The program is very thoughtful and is a great way to connect the needs of disadvantaged children with other children who have the means to make a change in a small but significant way,” said Burnite. “It also allows the student that make the art to reinforce how powerful their skills can be as an artist.  It’s a huge eye opener and reminder for all of us involved that there are many hardships throughout this world and to make one piece of art for one child in need of a reminder that he or she is a special individual.”

Organizations like these may help increase recognition of student art and serve to broaden the perspectives of students in Durango. “NAHS does this project because not only does it help make these children feel valued, it raises art awareness in the community,” said Fiala.   

If anything, the portraits of Memory children help us remember what we should be grateful for and add focus to hardships that children may face right at home. “As a parent, it breaks my heart to see the photos of the children we get,” said Burnite. “It makes me hold on to my daughter tighter and let her know I love her so much and we are both lucky to live in a world not as affected by some of the challenges that these children of the world have. This is a good talking point too because even close to home we have families and children that are suffering right in our own country, states, cities and neighborhoods.  It brings a reminder that we should also help those around us too and love thy neighbor.”