The art of charity: art students create mementos for mothers in crisis at Hannah’s House

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Bethel College puts a huge emphasis on impacting people outside of the “Bethel bubble,” and this emphasis even extends to the art department. Art majors are currently working on a project that will give back to the community by supporting Hannah’s House, a local refuge for women dealing with crisis pregnancies.

Michael May, chair of the art department, talked about the heart behind this project, which is in fact the same heart that drives Bethel’s emphasis as a whole on impacting the community. May said that his job is to train students to be, not just artists, but artists with an “outward focus” and willingness to serve.

“I wanted to do something in my class that was academic, so my students were learning things but also something that we could use as a blessing to enrich people's lives,” said May, “and I think it's good if those blessings can be given to people who don't normally get blessed with things.” This project is founded on the heart to serve and be a blessing to people like these women, who tend to slip through the cracks because of their difficult situations. Hannah’s House takes in both pregnant women as well as women who have already had their child and yet are still in a crisis. Bethel art students are creating 20 portraits of 20 of these children for the mothers at Hannah’s House. The portraits of their children provide the mothers with a keepsake of their child’s early years. Many of the mothers, because they came from difficult situations, have very few, if any, such keepsakes of their child’s early years. One such mother, May explained, only had one picture of her little girl, and a polaroid at that. In addition to giving the mothers something high quality to remember their child’s childhood, these portraits also remind them of their time in Hannah’s House; how they were given help in their time of need. Thus, the portraits, once finished, will make a huge impact on the women that will be receiving them. “It is not like our other projects,” said senior art major Hannah Pithey, “most of our other projects are just ‘come in and draw this thing here, or draw this model over there,’ but this is actually going to somebody, it's a gift to the mothers at Hannah's House. So, it has a lot more meaning to it than a piece you would turn in for a grade.” The fulfillment of May’s desire to train “artists with an outward focus” is seen in the students’ passion for this project. “It's teaching me, not just the importance of connecting learning with service, but the ease of it,” said senior art major William Merriweather. “Because we aren't doing anything super extra crazy…it's a small gesture we can do. And we are capable of it, so why not?” Sophomore art major Lorraine Gamble said that she thinks the project is a great opportunity for the art students to “give back to people we don’t know, and we may never meet. [The portraits are] something they can love and cherish.” This is the heart of this project: students doing a small gesture of service to people they may never meet so that those people can be blessed. The portraits are still currently in progress but should be finished by the end of March. May’s next goal is to get nice frames for each of the portraits. He is investigating possible donors to either provide the frames needed or the money to be able to buy the frames, which May said would come out to about $500 for decent frames. Once the frames are received, the framed portraits will be sent to Hannah’s House and be ready to present to the mothers for Mother’s Day, or possibly even earlier. May’s mission for the art department, shown in this Hannah’s House outreach project, mirrors the mission of Bethel College itself and can be summed up by Pithey’s words, “It's a lot easier than one might think to have anything in your major be a part of ministry.” (Photo credit: Hannah's House website)
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