By JOSEPH STENDER
Williamsport Area High School National Art Honor Society students recently created portraits of individuals they have never met that live in conditions they've never known.
Williamsport Area High School’s National Art Honor Society recently made portraits of Vietnamese orphans and sent them to the children. From left is Kelly Fisher, Katie Kahn, Joe Lockard, Madison Vermilya, Sarah Montgomery, Maria Balestino, Eliza Whyman, and Kirsten Gallew.
Students in the art organization participated in the Memory Project 2013, which started in 2004 and sees artists create portraits of disadvantaged students from all over the globe. There were 12 Williamsport students who participated by creating portraits of Vietnamese orphans.
"At the beginning it was really weird because I was just staring at this girl (I didn't know)," said senior Eliza Whyman.
Students could choose any medium they wanted to create the 8 1/2- by 11-inch portraits. Some painted, sketched and one even engraved the photo of the orphan.
"Everybody did something different," said Andrea McDonough Varner, advisor.
Participants paid a fee to be a part of the project but students said they wanted to be a part of it.
"I was sort of intrigued by it because I never heard of anything like it," Whyman said.
Students said they didn't know what to expect when they first received their photo.
"It was kind of surprising," Whyman said.
"I wanted to participate because I felt it was a really good opportunity to expose kids who didn't have the opportunity to have art classes to see what we do," said junior Cynthia Howard.
Students now saw what some orphans in Vietnam looked like.
"You hear these things about orphanages and you think, 'That can't be true,' " Howard said.
Junior Kelly Fisher instantly noticed how different the lives are of those here from the orphans in Vietnam.
"It's like an eye opener because you see how we are and how they are," she said.
Students also noted about how young some were.
Some said their portraits took them a few hours to complete, but Fisher said her engraving took about a month to finish.
While Fisher took the opportunity to try a new style, most students said they used a medium that they were comfortable with. Howard added that she didn't want to "screw it up" for the children who were counting on them.
When they finished their projects, most students decided to attach a photo of themselves to the back of their portraits. McDonough Varner said this allowed the two individuals to have a connection.
"So the orphans could actually see the artist," she said.
Students also received a photograph of the children holding their portraits. McDonough Varner said that it was nice to know see the children's faces.
"It was nice that there was that closure," she said. "We didn't just send (the portraits) off."
All involved said they were happy to participate.
"It's gratifying," said Whyman, on her feelings after seeing the photo.