by nathan oster
Greybull High School art teacher Teresa Boyer and five members of her art club spread some goodwill while learning about a culture other than their own last year through their participation in The Memory Project.
Founded in 2004, The Memory Project is a charitable nonprofit organization that invites art teachers, art students, and solo artists to help cultivate global kindness by creating portraits for children around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as violence, war, extreme poverty, neglect, and loss of parents.
Ben Schumaker is the founder of The Memory Project. While studying psychology and social work at the University of Wisconsin, he spent a month at an orphanage in Guatemala where he learned that the children had few special belongings to help capture their life stories.
As Ben had always enjoyed creating portraits for others, he had the idea to organize art teachers and their students to create portraits that could serve as positive and tangible “memories” for the children in their future.
Though once he started delivering these portraits to children around the world, he realized that they were also helping to build feelings of international friendship and solidarity.
Since 2004, more than 130,000 portraits have been completed for children in 47 countries.
Boyer said The Memory Project is near and dear to her heart. She was involved in it before her arrival in Greybull and offered it to students last year for the first time. Five students accepted the challenge: seniors Jazmyne Collingwood, Amber Tatkenhorst, Bree Winstead and Julia Roberts and junior Stephanie Jones.
The portraits they completed were for children in Puerto Rico who were impacted by Hurricane Maria.
Their process began with a picture.
“Some that we received…you could just see so much pain and hurt on their faces,” said Boyer. “Staring at them so long, you get connected to them. You feel for them.”
Each portrait costs the art club $15.
Boyer shared a video with school board members last week that showed the impact the portraits are having on children around the world.
“I can’t get through it without crying,” said Boyer. “It’s so touching to see their happiness. It makes you feel good, knowing that you’ve done something to make a difference.”
Members of the art club didn’t work on their projects during the school day, as it was considered an out-of-school activity. The work they put in occurred in the evenings, on the weekends and during their lunch periods, Boyer said.
She added that she and the students feel like they met the objectives of The Memory Project, which are to “build relations and create an understanding of support and caring between nations.
“To be honest, a lot of them are afraid their artwork isn’t going to be good enough. But I don’t think that’s the case at all. The girls did a wonderful job on everything that they did.”
Boyer said she intends to again offer up the opportunity participate in The Memory Project to students attending GHS this year.
In other news from the Sept. 11 meeting:
- Preliminary plans for a community town hall meeting featuring the candidates for school board were briefly discussed. The district is tentatively shooting for the Monday or Tuesday that follows the October board meeting. The board meeting is planned for Tuesday, Oct. 9, which would put the candidate forum on either Oct. 15 or Oct. 16.
The general election is Tuesday, Nov. 6.
Candidates for the four, four-year terms include Mike Wirtzberger, Mike Whaley, Ted Menke, Lynette Murray and Cindi Stanzione. Tracy Haley, Michelle Brown and Bekki Benasky are vying for the two-year term.
- Ralph Wensky spoke on behalf of the Greybull Education Association. After distributing the publication in which Dean Waddell and the Buff Ranch were featured, he shared details about a professional development conference planned for Oct. 13.
- Amber Vigil was hired to be a special education paraprofessional at the elementary school.
- The final payment of $19,860 for the bus barn heating and insulation upgrade project was released to JVAN Contracting.
- Joe Forcella, the district’s maintenance supervisor, briefed the board on a very productive summer of improvement projects. In addition to the work that was done at the bus barn, the high school and elementary school were remodeled. Several rooms were reconfigured for different uses, new carpeting was installed, more LED lights went up in parking lots around the district, steps were taken to improve building security and parking lots were added following the demolition of the A-Maverik Motel and the Buffalo Rose.
“All the projects were very clean,” said Forcella. “We had a couple of small change orders on the bus barn project, but otherwise, everything went well.
“It was one of the best summers we’ve ever had … and we’re already starting to look ahead to next summer.”