These images are from a book that documents 45 portraits that I painted of my 5th grade students at the Helen S. Faison Arts Academy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2005-2006. The book also includes artwork that we created together and writings by the students about their dreams, their concepts of angels and their portraits. My intention in this project was for each of child to have an original oil painting which honors their beauty, their divinity and their hope for the future.
Helen S. Faison Arts Academy, a public neighborhood school founded in 2004, is dedicated to using the arts and technology as tools to actively engage children in academic learning. The Academy is located in a community called “Homewood”, which has a long, rich history of great challenges and great accomplishments.
The following are selections from the book of the portraits and student writing.
My dream is to be a veterinarian, a dog breeder or a dog trainer. I like animals and want to help them when they are hurt and sick. I would just love to spend time with them. If I could do that, I would do it every day.
My dream is to be an artist, because I love to draw and paint. Ms. Laurie and my big brother inspire me. I will keep drawing on my own, go to an art high school and go to college.
I like that there are wings on the picture of me. They make me think of angels and birds. I like that Ms. Laurie put the man I painted on “The Wall of Care” in the background, with his tattooed tear and words – “Stop the violence today!” The man is a good man. I keep seeing him in my dreams. He’s expressing himself in his tears, saying “Stop the Violence Today!”
I think an angel is a good ghost with a spirit rising from the living dead. All of my life, I’m going to memorize my picture to remember me as a child. When I go away to college, my family will memorize the painting, too, to remember me when I am away from home.
My dream is to be a college student so I can be a professional football player. The person who inspired me is my Granddad because we used to always watch sports together. To accomplish my dream I need to go to football practice now, do my best and work hard.
I also want to tell you about my best cousin Darion Parker. I miss him very much. He was only sixteen years old when he died. He died of a gun. Two shots hit him – one in his neck and one in his heart. It was a drive-by shooting for someone else. It is very rough living where I live. You would never want to move here. I remember the fun days Darion and I used to have, like going to Ponderosa and to the store together, having the greatest time of our lives. He is gone, but not forgotten. I miss you. Darion, rest in peace, cuz.
The picture gives me memories about my cousin. I like the painting because I want the violence to stop. Someday all the violence will stop. My wings make me think of living by being peaceful. An angel is someone who is right beside you and tries to stop every bad thing you are about to do or keeps you safe if someone is trying to harm you.
What does this painting mean to me? Everything.
When I grow up I want to be a professional basketball player. Cynthia Cooper inspires me. I have got to get good grades so I can get into college. My grades are getting better. Reading, writing, math, computers and knowing how to basketball are all important. I also need to respect people on my team.
I like my face and hair in the picture. I think I look more like my mom than me in the painting. The painting means a lot to me, like my family does. My family is the most important thing in the world to me. I love my mom and I love my painting. My wings make me feel good about myself because angels do good things. They are good people.
I want to be a football player when I grow up because I like the players in the NFL. I also like playing drums. I played drums in Jamaica. I have to play football in high school, graduate high school and go to college to reach my dream.
My painting doesn’t look like me. I like the background and I like the shades on the wings. It looks like I am in heaven. I want it done over.