Public Art · Civic Education · Community Engagement · Creative Therapy · Teamwork
In 1995, Ed Massey and Bernie Massey founded Portraits of Hope, continuing their utilization of art and poignant visual imagery for large-scale projects of social consequence.
Developed initially for seriously ill and physically disabled children, the 501 (c)(3) program conceives and develops one-of-a-kind motivational art projects that merge the production of dynamic public art works with creative therapy for hospitalized children and civic education for students of all ages.
Portraits of Hope projects have involved tens of thousands of youth and adults in high-profile civic collaborations that have visually and spectacularly transformed everything from airplanes, buildings, and the New York City taxi fleet to blimps, tugboats, and NASCAR racecars.
To date, more than 800 hospitals, schools, after-school programs, and social service agencies have directly participated in Portraits of Hope projects and programmatic activities in addition to a wide array of adult community groups.
The majority of youth served by Portraits of Hope regularly face socio-economic and/or physical or medical challenges. For them and for all involved, the project culminations provide a tangible civic achievement and an opportunity to point with pride and say, “I did that.”
And in the course through their participation in the program, the youngsters learn about important social and community issues, the power of teamwork, and their ability to achieve.
The Portraits of Hope program is aimed at enriching the lives of children and adults – many who may be coping with adversity or serious illness – through their participation in creative, educational, high-profile, one-of-a-kind projects.
From its inception, Portraits of Hope has emphasized hands-on civic engagement opportunities for the broader public. Portraits of Hope’s integrated elements are Public Art, Civic Education, Health, Teamwork, Community Engagement, Achievement, and Visibility.
The symbol of the Portraits of Hope program is a flower in an array of vibrant colors. The flower is the universal icon of joy, life, youth, beauty, hope, inspiration, and renewal. Geometric shapes are also core design elements in the public projects – as the young participants will be responsible for “shaping the future.” Together, both icons represent the essence of the Portraits of Hope message.
Portraits of Hope’s core education program focuses on social issues education. Through their participation in Portraits of Hope, students of all ages engage in interdisciplinary sessions in which they learn about, discuss, and express themselves about important current affairs, civic issues, individual and social responsibilities, goals and achievement, decision-making, and — the power of teamwork.
In Portraits of Hope school sessions, students integrate their writing, oral and visual presentation skills to express themselves about those individual and societal issues most important to them. As a group, the students evaluate the importance of 14 contemporary issues inclusive of: the environment, education, senior care, national security, ethnic relations, healthcare, women’s equality, medical research, foreign aid, poverty, and animal rights.
The students write about and design small-scale projects representing the issues they would choose to advance. Special emphasis is placed on discussing: how they would integrate their individual goals with broader societal ones; the themes of individual and social responsibility; and decision-making based on budgets, ethics and/or self-interest. The role of teamwork and collaboration to achieve positive change is central to the learning activities. The larger art collaborations — creating the public works themselves — are hands-on group efforts intended, in part, to demonstrate tangibly what people cooperating together are able to accomplish.
For children and adults coping with serious health and physical conditions, Portrait of Hope projects serve as creative therapy. Portraits of Hope has provided children and adults facing cancer, burn trauma, spinal injuries, HIV/AIDS, head and brain injuries, and other serious medical issues with innovative, fun, and therapeutic activities that let them enjoy and take pride in themselves during the course of their medical care and/or rehabilitative treatments.
During hospital sessions, children and adults receiving care have the opportunity to share in Portraits of Hope project activities – including creating individual, small-scale, project-themed artworks – with family members, visitors, medical staff, and hospital and project volunteers. Portraits of Hope also involves all in the larger public art collaboration.
In order to facilitate the diverse needs of children and adults with disabilities, Portraits of Hope has developed and incorporated specialized brushes and painting methods in the program including : telescope paint brushes for children and adults in wheelchairs or attached to IVs; shoe brushes (U.S. Patent) for children and adults with injured upper limbs or who cannot manipulate a brush with their hands; and flavored mouth brushes for those with limited or no movement in their arms and legs.
At hospitals, bedside visits are made to make sure that anyone who may wish to participate is able to do so.
Portraits of Hope takes great pride in that every major Portraits of Hope project has served and involved children in hospitals and rehabilitative facilities.