May 22, 2020; updated January 22, 2021

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Despite home quarantine, NDP seniors finished annual portrait project for orphans and disadvantaged youth around the world.

UPDATE: Portraits created by IB Visual Art and AP Studio seniors at Notre Dame last school year have finally arrived in Caracas, Venezuela, and were distributed to the orphans. Check out this video to see the many happy faces of the children after receiving the artwork.

(May 22, 2020) IB Visual Art seniors and AP Studio seniors at Notre Dame recently finished up what is an annual tradition for the college-bound student-artists. Each of the seniors created a portrait of an orphan living in Venezuela as part of the Memory Project, a unique initiative in which art students create portraits for children and teens around the world who have been neglected, orphaned or disadvantaged.

NDP IB and AP senior art students present their portraits to each other for critique prior to shipping to Venezuela.

Sandy LewAllen, who is the chair of NDPMA’s art department, said she packaged and shipped the portraits to Venezuela earlier this month. In previous years, portraits by NDP seniors have gone to Afghanistan, Haiti, Congo, Ghana, Mexico and Peru.

The charitable nonprofit organization Memory Project invites art teachers and their students to create and donate their portraits to youth around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as neglect, abuse, loss of parents, violence and extreme poverty.

Administrators from the Memory Project say that kids in such situations tend to have few personal keepsakes, and project organizers aim to provide them with special memories that capture a piece of their childhood – portable pieces of their personal history. As much as possible, the Memory Project also wants to help the kids see themselves as "works of art."

LewAllen said the IB and AP seniors really get into the project, the last of their Notre Dame art careers, but it was quite different than years past.

"We began our two-year journey in IB/AP Art with a concentrated study of self portraitures," she said. "I feel it was fitting to end the course with a portrait that moves beyond self and in this case, reaches across the globe to impoverished children in another country."

Notre Dame seniors participating in the Memory Project were Claire Brisley, Tori Case, Amelia Cumming, Sabrina Fitzgerald, Reid Gaboury, Sana Muqueem, Ben Shick, Abigail Smith, Megan Sollmer, Melissa Utykanski and Abigail Wodrich.

Since the students have been working from home, their final class took place on Zoom where they showed their portraits to one another. 

"I am so proud that our students use their gifts and talents to make the world a brighter place for children they will never even meet," said LewAllen, who noted that sometime during the summer, she'll get photos from Venezuela of the orphans posing with their portraits. 

“It truly is heartwarming to see how excited the kids are when they receive our artwork.”

For more information on enrollment and registration at Notre Dame, please visit the admissions section of our website here.

Comments or questions on this story? mkelly@ndpma.org

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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. Notre Dame Preparatory School enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower schools enroll students in pre-kindergarten through grade eight. All three school are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school’s home page at www.ndpma.org.