Old Rochester art students participate in international Memory Project

Jun 6, 2023

MATTAPOISETT — Old Rochester Regional Highschool students made an international impact with their participation in the “Memory Project,”a youth arts organization that uses art created by children and for children to promote kindness and intercultural understanding around the world, announced Old Rochester Regional School District Superintendent Mike Nelson and Director of Guidance Lauren Millette.

In the fall of 2022, Old Rochester students received portrait photographs of Syrian school children aged 5-12. Using the photographs as reference, students worked under the leadership of art faculty members Joanne Mogilnicki and Kate Butler to create portrait paintings and drawings of the Syrian children.

Upon their completion, all the portraits were sent back to Syria to be presented to the children. Each finished portrait had a picture of the Old Rochester student who created it glued to the back, along with a tracing of their hand. Within that traced outline, each Old Rochester student included a handwritten message for the Syrian child. The tracing of the hand that made the portrait is meant to serve as a symbol of how art connects people, and can be used as a vehicle of kindness, one portrait at a time.

A common sentiment among the Old Rochester students was that being a part of the Memory Project was one of the most fulfilling and meaningful art projects they have ever experienced.

"Art is an excellent way for our students to express themselves and use their skills to create something that creates a meaningful connection with others," said Millette. "It was wonderful to see how much they enjoyed this project."

In an online message about the Memory Project, founder Ben Schumaker noted that “the Memory Project gets its name from its first intention, which was to provide handmade, heartfelt portraits as special memories to children in orphanages. Now our intention has expanded to touching the lives of youth around the world facing many types of challenges, while opening our hearts and minds so they can touch ours in return. Together we are using art to reach a distant destination: a kinder world in which all youth see themselves in one another regardless of differences in their appearance, culture, religion, or circumstances.”

Since 2004, the Memory Project has engaged 300,000 youth in 55 countries through school-based programs.