The Besharat Arts Foundation has donated “The Faces of Innocence” exhibit of photographs of children from around the world by famed photographer Steve McCurry to Moretown Elementary School. McCurry photographed the iconic “Afghan Girl” image in 1985 for National Geographic, one of the most famous images in recent history. The Besharat Arts Foundation brings works of art to schools to increase students’ empathy and understanding of other cultures and ways of living.
“I was determined to add more cultural awareness within our small community,” Moretown art teacher Heather O’Hare said. “I want to provide students with an opportunity to ‘see’ the world by bringing the world to the school through an art display.” The photographs show, “They are all children just like the students at Moretown School.”
Moretown Elementary is the first school in Vermont to participate in this project. “My dream is that through this experience and exposure, the children at Moretown School will gain more awareness of other children and people throughout our world. The diversity of the images captures moments in time of a variety of individuals within our students’ peer groups,” O’Hare said. Moretown students will observe the images and engage in discussion and reflection using journaling, writing, painting, drawing, photography, cultural research and dialogue. “They are describing, analyzing, interpreting, evaluating the images, exploring the countries the images are from and are having rich conversations about each one. They relate to the images because they, too, are children. It is remarkable to be immersed in this learning process. Our hallways are now centers of learning. The daily contact will allow for a deeper meaning and connection to the faces of the children in the photographs.”
“We live in a small state and Moretown is a small school within a small community. I have always dreamed of having a museum or gallery within walking distance to which all children can have access. This particular exhibit allows this concept to be in a space they attend five days a week. Exposure to other cultures is crucial and important for all children wherever they live in our world. If connections to the art promote empathy and kindness, this exhibit can open our eyes to another world out there,” O’Hare said.
The exhibit is closed to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions. O’Hare hopes to share the photos with other Vermont schools in the future.
“As soon as the prints went on display on the walls of our school, the students began their own individual process of observation. They noticed the emotions depicted in the faces of the portraits, the settings, the cultures; they looked at small details and developed a sense of wonder. The questions, discussions and comments with peers and teachers have been fascinating and engaging,” she said. “We will continue to explore these reactions and conversations throughout the school year.”