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Noteworthy

Creating Memories

Posted on December 07, 2012


Y Troi by Emily Hill

By Holly Walker

Brush meets canvas, swirls of color begin to take form, and faces emerge. Some greet you with impish grins and bright eyes that hint at mischief. Others are more restrained, slightly shy and uncertain. These are the faces of the children of Vietnam, and John Tyler Community College art students have spent the semester painstakingly recreating their images using only the photographs provided to them. This is not just a class project; it is a labor of love because each portrait is a gift for a child who has few, if any, possessions. The portraits, painted by students in Professor Colin Ferguson’s Painting III and Painting IV classes, are part of the Memory Project, an initiative that gives children, from all over the world, who have been abandoned, orphaned, abused or neglected a personal keepsake. For the project, Ferguson and more than 13 of his students were each given a photograph, and from that image, each artist created a portrait. The completed artwork will be sent to the child as a gift.

This is the seventh time Ferguson’s upper-level painting students have participated in the project. In past semesters, they have painted portraits of orphans from Afghanistan, Peru, Uganda, Myanmar, Haiti and Ecuador. Students involved in the project get a rigorous lesson on portraiture painting, but as Ferguson points out, the lesson goes far beyond technique and grades. “This assignment continues to be one of the most significant to the students and the quality of the work testifies to this,” says Ferguson. “Ben Schumaker who created the Memory Project told me the portraits from John Tyler are consistently among the best he receives each year. We recently received photos of the children from Afghanistan holding the paintings we did. Seeing these orphans with their portraits make it so worthwhile for these students. They know their art has truly made an impact.”

The Memory Project portraits will be on display near room E220 on the second floor of Eliades Hall at John Tyler Community College’s Midlothian Campus through December 13, 2012. If you are unable to stop by the display, you can see the portraits on the College’s Flickr page at http://www.flickr.com/johntylercc. After December 13, the artwork will then be sent to the Memory Project for delivery to the children in Vietnam. Often, photographs of the children holding their portraits are sent to Ferguson and his students as a way to say thank you. The College’s participation in this project is supported by the John Tyler Community College Foundation. For more information about The Memory Project, visit http://www.thememoryproject.org.

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