Student artists send inspiration across the globe

Artwork made by junior Leilani Berry for a child in Nigeria.

Annika Houck, Senior Editor

Burroughs art students have a wide variety of projects over the course of the semester, and the Memory Project is often a favorite.

Students who choose to participate are asked to create custom artwork for children around the world, this year in Nigeria.

“The Memory Project gives art students the opportunity to create portraits of children around the world who have been orphaned and otherwise disadvantaged,” said Art Teacher Holly Hodgson. “The artwork is delivered to the children and provides them with a special memory of their youth and honors their heritage and identity.”

This is not the first time Burroughs students have participated, but with the recent pandemic’s disturbance, art students have missed out on this opportunity. Hodgson is hopeful that the project will be a recurring feature of the art program in the coming years.

“The BHS art students participating in the project are not only developing art skills related to creating artwork and use of specific media, they also experience compassion through a connection to children who have endured hardships; the students are promoting the value of sharing kindness with others,” said Hodgson.

Students are given interests and photos of the child they are making art for and create a piece based on these guides.

Traditionally students are asked to make portraits of the children, but this year the options were expanded to include “inspiration art” to lift spirits and inspire joy.

“My students felt like inspiration art offered more freedom to create art honoring the unique qualities of each child,” said Hodgson. “This year we made art for children in an orphanage in Nigeria. Some students chose a tree of life symbol and the child’s favorite color as subject matter for their painting.”

As part of the process, students must think carefully about how their kindness can be best transferred to the page and how to bring joy to children an ocean away.

“I decided to make it music related because she said she wants to be a singer and I also share an interest in music so I thought it would be cool,” said junior Bethany Mouw. “She also said her favorite color is yellow so I added it to the background. I put her traits in the tree branches to show that her qualities are the best part of her. My tree made for Lilian embodies her. Her name is at the stem of the tree with lines meeting the amazing qualities and traits of her in the branches.”

Students from these art classes were able to use small details from these children’s personalities and create wonderful pieces that will bring smiles to their faces, many in places where reasons to smile may be rare.

“I just loved the opportunity to make something special for someone,” said senior Melanie Witman.
Hodgson was thrilled with the results.

“The students did an awesome job!” said Hodgson. “We will receive a video in a few weeks of the children in Nigeria receiving our art. The experience comes full circle and that’s a great gift for us too. I think that making art as a gift for another person, even someone you’ve never met that is half a world away, is good for the soul.”

Students agreed.

“I learned that doing the littlest thing like painting a picture for someone won’t just make them feel special, loved and happy, but it will also make you feel that way too and that’s what’s so amazing about this project,” said Mouw. “Yes, I would 100% do this again. I loved it and really hope she likes it!”

For Hodgson, the project has presented an eye-opening opportunity for her students.

“To quote Tim Rollins, ‘Art is most important to us as a means of knowledge of this world…the world of other places and other countries. It’s not just producing objects, but producing a form of critical thinking about the world,’” said Hodgson.

More students and their projects are viewable at