Painting with purpose

Art students crafting portraits to create connections across the world


Lilly Gorman

Coppell High School sophomore Alex Bowden drew a portrait of a child from Malaysia, CHS art teacher David Bearden selected Bowden and nine other of his art students for the Memory Project. This non-profit organization is for students to create a portrait of a less fortunate child.

Sydney Rowe, Staff Writer/Photographer

Roughly 9,500 miles separate the country of Malaysia from Coppell. Coppell High School art teacher David Bearden is bridging this gap by enlisting his students to participate in the Memory Project, a nonprofit organization where students create a portrait of a less fortunate child.

Bearden selected 10 students from his classes to participate in the project. Each artist receives a picture of a child from a charity from within the respective country and is tasked with painting a picture of this child, some of which do not even have access to everyday items.

“Amongst other things these children go without, they may not even have a likeness of themselves,” Bearden said. “Some may not even have access to mirrors, stuff we take for granted that we use everyday.”

In addition to creating a portrait of each child, art students attach a blurb about themselves, creating a sense of connection between kids who are oceans away.

“For the little kids who don’t usually have pictures or drawings of themselves, they get that and they feel as if they are interacting with people from across the world,” CHS sophomore art student Alex Bowden said.

Others connect with the project on a deeper level, associating it with personal experiences in an impoverished country. CHS sophomore art student Aubyn Baskin’s work with kids on her annual trip to South America brings the task of the project closer to home for her. 

“I go to Guatemala every summer,” Baskin said. “When [Bearden] told me about the project I just imagined the kids I see every year getting a picture like that, and I thought it would be really personal and cool.”

This untraditional project of charity inspired Bearden to task some of his students last year. He intends to keep the tradition going for his kids as the years go on. 

“This project is important to me because it hits a lot of things I am most passionate about,” Bearden said. “One being art, obviously. Another is using art as a service tool, not just a form of expression, but something you can make a profound change in someone’s life with.”

CHS English teacher and Bowden’s father, Matthew Bowden, discusses the importance of the project to his daughter and how the Memory Project and others like it allow kids to express themselves in ways not common in today’s education system.

“More than ever today, kids need a chance to express themselves artistically,” Mr. Bowden said. “Kids need a way to express themselves through their writing, their words, their voices, their music. It’s a great opportunity for [Alex] and I’m super thankful for a teacher like Bearden who looks into these kinds of things.” 

Art means much more than just a simple pleasing image to many. To some it can be so powerful as to bridge thousands of miles.

“Art is a different form of communicating,” Baskin said. “Since we can’t actually talk to these people, this little picture is a way to create a personal connection and really reach out to them.”


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