As a designer entering my senior year of art school, I was faced with the challenge of pouring an entire school year of my creative thought into one event; my senior thesis project. A requirement for graduation, this project would culminate in an exhibtion of my work at the end of the school year that would reflect this journey.
I believe that art has the ability to heal. I also believe that we as designers influence thought and action through our designs, making it imperative to give back to humanity through the excercise of our art. These thoughts were the foundation of my thesis project, "The Least of These".
"The Least of These" was a collaboration with Compassion International, an organization that provides hope through sponsorship for thousands of children around the globe. The child I sponsor through Compassion has changed my view of the world, and I wanted others to have that same opportunity to bless and be blessed.
Historically, having your portrait painted denoted importance in society, so what better way to highlight the importance of these children than to paint their portraits? Aided by Compassion, I chose 20 children in need of sponsorship, and over the course of a few months painted their portraits onto wooden pallets I constructed. The idea was that the attendees of the exhibition would be given the opportunity to sponsor the children in the paintings, putting a human face to the oh–so–easy to ignore statistics we hear on a daily basis.
These were the driving ideas behind my project, and soon all 20 portraits were painted. As the day of my exhibition opening drew closer, all I could do was wait and see what would happen next.
March 22nd. D–Day. The paintings were finished, the posters were put up, and the cheese and crackers were ready for consumption.
After several months of work put in between jobs, classes, and other responsibilties, it was finally the day of reckoning. I was praying that at least 10 of the 20 children would be sponsored on the night of the exhibition, but I was still apprehensive, considering my main audience was college students who are notoriously short of cash.
I had pounded the pavement literally and electronically for months leading up to the exhibition, creating a website, facebook page, and sending out invitations. Despite my dislike of self-promotion, I had put up posters, contacted the local newspapers, and had announcements in various bulletins and newsletters.
At a quarter to seven, people started showing up. The response was overwhelmingly positive, and time flew by. I knew we were going to make the ten sponsorships about an hour into the evening, but people kept appearing, asking for information or a sponsorship card.
I started putting "Sponsored" tags on the paintings, and was surprised by how many I was having to make. By nine o'clock, 16 of the children had sponsors. Within 24 hours the remaining children were sponsored.
The response to the show was quick, positive, and more meaningful than I had dared to hope for. Not only did the aftermath lead to a few freelance jobs, mentions in a publication or two, and a great piece in my portfolio, but it gave me a sense of clarity. It reinforced my desire to involve myself in projects that are meaningful to me. Too many artists compromise for the lucrative, but for me, the sense of accomplishment is more important.