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Area students paint for a cause at PAA
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Martinsville High School senior Elizabeth Adkins works on her portrait of a Rwandan orphan Thursday during a visiting artist workshop organized by Piedmont Arts Association. The students’ finished paintings will be sent to the orphans as a gift through the Memory Project. (Contributed photo)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

By KIM BARTO - Special to the Bulletin

A Piedmont Arts painting workshop has connected Martinsville students with disadvantaged children in Rwanda.

Ten Martinsville High School art students took part in a special portrait workshop Thursday with visiting artist Marjorie Perrin, an educator with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. However, this was no ordinary art lesson.

Each student received a photograph of a Rwandan orphan and painted a portrait of the child during the workshop. The finished paintings will be delivered to the Rwandan children as gifts through the Memory Project, a nonprofit initiative in which artists and art students create portraits to give to orphans and disadvantaged children around the world.

The high school students learned that orphans in other countries often reach adulthood without any photos or mementos from their childhood. The Memory Project gives them a special personal keepsake. Photos will be taken of the portraits being delivered so the student artists can see how the children react to their gifts.

“This is a great project to be involved in. We wouldn’t be able to do it without Piedmont Arts,” said art teacher Lindsey Lugrin. In addition to the service component, Lugrin said, “It’s a really great opportunity to let students try a style of painting they wouldn’t otherwise get to experience in a regular class.”

Each student picked the photo he or she wanted to paint and put a lot of effort into the assignment.

“The seriousness of the project lends itself to the students really wanting to make a good finished product,” Lugrin said.

In just five hours, Perrin led the students from a blank page, to a charcoal sketch, to a full-color portrait in acrylic paints. They learned about mixing colors, building layers of paint and matching skin tones. Students who did not finish their paintings during the workshop will complete them this month.

“They’ve done really well,” Perrin said, especially because many students had not used acrylic paints before.

Senior Elizabeth Adkins earned compliments for her realistic likeness of a Rwandan girl with a shy smile. “I like doing portraits,” Elizabeth said. “It’s really cool that the kids will get to see it.”

Participation in the Memory Project “helps students practice kindness and service to others, while allowing them to be creative and reaching across international lines,” said Heidi Pinkston, education coordinator for Piedmont Arts.

“For the orphans, we’re able to give these children, who are in really awful situations, something positive from their childhood that they can have forever,” Pinkston said.

Kylee Graham, a sophomore, added colorful swirls and hearts to the background of her portrait. “I thought I’d make (the painting) look happier,” she said. “I think it’s a really good project. In the orphanage, they don’t have a lot of things to remember their childhood.”

DeAaron McNeal, also a sophomore, called the project “nice” and “helpful.” Of painting the portrait, he said, “It’s fun. It just takes patience.”

Also participating in the project at Martinsville High School were Dani King, Tevin Akers, Griffin Haley, Cassie Maroon, Kylee Graham and Ashleigh Buck.

A workshop also was held at Magna Vista High School last week. The workshops were organized by Piedmont Arts, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and VMFA Office of Statewide Partnerships, and were supported by the Paul Mellon Endowment.


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