Sharing Smiles Across the Atlantic Ocean

Sarah McCormick wrote this article for publication:

Christchurch School art students completed portraits of people from the Niognani village of Senegal, a very diverse nation on the western coast of Africa.  Using photographs taken on previous global education trips, art students captured the proportion and personality of their subjects using their own individual style. The students attached a picture of themselves on the back of the portraits and added a small description of themselves as the artists.  When students and faculty visited the village over Thanksgiving break, the portraits were given to village members as a gift. The gifts were very well received. It is often difficult for travelers to bring gifts or sentiments to a foreign country that make an impact on the villagers. The portrait project was an excellent way to embrace the connection of the giver of the gift to its recipient. The smiles and appreciation of the portraits were felt an ocean away.

The portrait project was the perfect idea to honor the Niognani village members that host the Christchurch group every year. As in past years, villagers shared their time, home, and food, and treated them like family.  Upon receiving the gift, a local villager named Kecouta, friend of Aaron Alter, CCS Director of Global Education, said, “I only talk a lot when I am angry and right now I have no words.” Keita said, “Of all the gifts, the portraits were the best choice and would be treasured forever.”  Twenty-two portraits were made and all were received with kindness and laughter.

As one of the CCS art students described the project,”This (project) was really personal. As the artist, it was really important to do my best work. “Doing this project gave us the opportunity to do something for someone and create a connection with our art.” Peter Liu , 10th grader. “Being able to see the photos of our work, in the hands of the intended recipient, was very heartwarming.”, Mary Esten Brown,10th grader.

Art instructor, Sarah McCormick, developed the project with the intent of using art to bridge the school and African communities together. “My purpose in utilizing this project was to leave a lasting image of our trip with the villagers. We got to do that in the most literal sense. The outcome of the project was far more effective than I could have imagined. I spent so much time looking at the images of the villagers as students created their portraits, I felt as if I knew them personally before I even got to Senegal.”

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Samba, age 4, is featured here holding his portrait created by Christchurch School Student Artist, senior, Rashad Rigby.


Kecouta with portraits by Reese Bragg, Faith Hattersley and Aiden Lian


Seni holding his two portraits made by McKinley Howard and Peter Liu

2 thoughts on “Sharing Smiles Across the Atlantic Ocean

  1. Art is powerful, timeless, and a record of our lives over centuries. Art tells the story of every nation and tribe. So very important. Thank you for keeping art and personal connections central to this experience.


  2. Wow! The expressions on the faces of the children and adults who received the portraits and comments by our students says it all. Thanks for sharing!


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